This is House District 38 Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky’s first full session as a state legislator, and she has some significant challenges as the chairwoman of a newly-created special committee on tribal affairs. The Dunleavy administration has taken stances that tribal advocates oppose. But overall, she says she is pleased with how her fellow lawmakers received the discussions about tribes' role in the state.
Dunleavy wants to cut funding to many of the services that the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta relies on. One of these is to the Village Public Safety Officer program, from which Dunleavy's proposed budget would have taken $3 million and given it to the Alaska State Trooper program.
"I was really disheartened to see the proposal come forward from the governor," Zulkosky said.
Zulkosky heads a new committee in the House that focuses on Alaska Native tribes’ role in Alaska, but Dunleavy’s proposals to deny or reduce state funding for services that Alaska Native tribes depend on puts more pressure on Zulkosky, a freshman lawmaker.
Dunleavy’s administration refused to consult with two tribes on a government-to-government basis, and negotiations failed over funding a historic agreement called the Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact that gives tribes more control over child welfare cases. It was signed by the Walker administration, and gives tribes more resources and freedom to take care of Alaska Native children that could be placed in foster care in rural areas where the state doesn't have staff.
Zulkosky disagrees with those decisions from the Dunleavy administration.
"There should be tribal consultation in the state of Alaska," Zulkosky said. "There should be tribal compacting in the State of Alaska."
Meanwhile, the committee did send a bill and resolution to Dunleavy to sign in its first session. The resolution says that the federal government needs to fully fund the 2020 census to make sure they get a full count. Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages rely on the federal and state funding they receive, which is based on census numbers.
"We stand to lose $30,000 per uncounted Alaskan over a 10 year period if there’s an undercount," Zulkosky said.
She also sent a bill that would set aside November to celebrate Alaska Native heritage on the state calendar. Zulkosky says that national proclamations have set aside November to celebrate Native American and Alaska Native heritage.
Dunleavy still has to sign both.
The special committee will soon head into its next session. Zulkosky says that the conversations will get “more technical,” especially around consultation and compacting.