Governor signs bill making November 14 Dr. Walter Soboleff Day

Signing of HB 217, Dr. Walter Soboleff Day 02

Governor Parnell signs HB 217 at Marine Park, July 30, 2014.

November 14 is now Dr. Walter Soboleff Day in Alaska, a day to honor the late, beloved Tlingit elder.

At Marine Park today in Juneau, Governor Sean Parnell signed into law House Bill 217 by Sitka Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins to make Dr. Soboleff’s November 14 birthday a time to remember a man who made his home in Juneau and was widely known throughout the state as a gentle and graceful spiritual leader and statesman. He passed away on May 22, 2011, at the age of 102.

Dr. Soboleff was born in Killisnoo near Angoon in 1908. He was the grandson of Russian Orthodox minister Ivan Soboleff and loved school from an early age. For him, Abraham Lincoln was a hero – so much so that he often would recite the Gettysburg Address in Tlingit and English.

He moved to Juneau in 1940 to become a minister at Memorial Presbyterian Church. My family was part of his congregation. We continued to look up to him as a spiritual leader after he left that church in 1962 and became an itinerant minister aboard the Princeton Hall, a beautiful wooden ship known by many in Southeast Alaska.

Dr. Soboleff was there for us during good times and sad times. He officiated over marriages and funerals, imbuing the former with joy and the latter with comfort.

His words, deeds, and, indeed, his very presence radiated grace. He often spoke of hard work, unity, and respect.

Soon there will be a cultural center in the heart of Downtown Juneau to honor a remarkable man who always will be in the hearts of many.

With his family – Sasha, Janet, Walter Jr. and Ross, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – I look forward to celebrating November 14 as Dr. Walter Soboleff Day.

Signing of HB 217, Dr. Walter Soboleff Day 01

Left to right: Walter Soboleff children: Walter, Jr., Ross, Sasha, and Janet; John Moller, Gov. Parnell, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Sen. Dennis Egan, Rep. Cathy Muñoz, Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford.

Governor signs bill to pay off $12-billion public pension debt

Governor Parnell has signHappy Day - Governor signs HB 385, 23 June 2014ed into law a bill to help pay off the state’s $12 billion public pension liability. Surrounded by scores of public employees on June 23, 2014, at the atrium of the State Office Building in Juneau, he signed House Bill 385, which calls for transferring $3 billion from the state constitutional budget reserve to the Alaska Public Employees Retirement System and the Teachers Retirement System.

The legislation sets up a 25-year payment schedule with annual payments that are expected to range from $350 million to $500 million.

HB 385 shows a strong commitment to teachers, public employees, retirees, beneficiaries, and dependents – nearly 120,000 people. It also assures that our credit rating stays strong as we embark on bold ventures such as building an Alaska natural gas project.

It was an honor to carry the bill for the governor on the House side. Its passage would not have been possible without the help of Juneau residents Sam Trivette and Tom Brice, both members of the Alaska Retirement Management Board, and retired Department of Revenue Deputy Commissioner Tom Boutin who has advised me on this issue since 2008.

HB 385 - Cathy and Sean 02

Happy day: Cathy, Gov. Parnell, and a newly signed HB 385.

State town hall meeting on Aetna and Moda Health in Juneau on June 10

Cathy floor photo, 2012, web sizeThe state will hold a hearing in Juneau on Tuesday, June 10, on how Aetna and Moda Health are providing medical and dental third-party administration services.

On January 1, 2014, Aetna and Moda Health became the third-party claims administrators and discount network providers for both active and retired State of Alaska employees who are members of the AlaskaCare health plan.

During the past months, many have contacted my office concerned about changes in how health benefits are being administered. Some concerns have been addressed such as pharmacy benefits.

At the June 10 meeting, Aetna and Moda representatives will be available. The event will be at the University of Alaska Southeast Egan Lecture Hall, Room 112.

The agenda is as follows:

10 a.m. – Noon:     Medical panel

Noon – 1 p.m.:       Lunch or individual meetings with Aetna representatives

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.:     Dental panel

2 p.m. – 3 p.m.:     Individual meetings with Moda/Delta Dental of Alaska representatives

Streaming media of the Juneau meeting will be available on the Division of Retirement and Benefits web site for those who can’t attend in person. Instructions and a link to the live feed will be available on June 10 on the AlaskaCare home page at www.AlaskaCare.gov.

Questions may be submitted in advance of the meeting at doa.drb.alaskacaretownhall@alaska.gov.

If you have any questions about the town hall meeting, please contact Brandon Maitlen at 907-269-7255 or at Brandon.maitlen@alaska.gov.

Dental, visual, and audio premiums to go down by 10 percent

Monthly state retiree premiums are going down by 10 percent for AlaskaCare dental, vision, and audio coverage starting July 1, 2014, according to Michele Michaud, the chief health official of the Alaska Division of Retirement and Benefits.

Monthly premium rates will be as follows:

Retiree only                                      $63

Retiree and spouse                      $125

Retiree and child or children      $113

Retiree and family                        $178

The state will send post cards to all covered retirees about this. Those should arrive in the mail sometime after June 25. Retirees will begin to see the new premiums on their July benefit statement which should be posted on July 25.

For more on this topic, go to http://doa.alaska.gov/drb.

At this site, you can sign up for email news and updates.

Aetna, the state’s new third-party health care administrator, has an office in the Sealaska Corporation building in downtown Juneau at One Sealaska Plaza, Suite 305. It is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Contact Kelly Farmer, Aetna’s supervisor here, at FarmerK@aetna.com.

Alaska loses a valuable Capitol reporter, Bob Tkacz

The news of the death of veteran Capitol reporter Bob Tkacz is heart-breaking.

He was known for his hard-driving interview style, but he was always fair.

I subscribed to his Laws for the Sea, which had valuable information in each issue – so much so that one friend once called it the “Value Meal of Capitol Information” because of its content and because Bob didn’t charge as much as he probably should have done.

Bob had integrity, and he will be missed.