Tips for understanding the mumbo jumbo of Alaska budget

Glossary of Budget Terms

Even if you’re not a numbers geek you’ll likely find something interesting and readable about the state’s Fiscal Year 2015 and the 2016 budgets on the Office of Management and Budget’s website.

I’ve had lots of fun reading through them and encourage you to do likewise. Now before you freak out about all that budget mumbo jumbo and those huge dollar amounts, let me remind you of “Maggie’s Rule for Reading Legislative Stuff”.

Go to the site, glance around for something that catches your eye and skim through it. If it’s interesting and makes sense great, you’ve learned something new. If it’s boring or totally incomprehensible, skip it. Don’t feel guilty or dumb or anything, just move on. There are plenty of pages and lots of really cool stuff on the state’s website, so feel free to cherry-pick your reading material.

Speaking of reading material. I found an informative glossary of budget words on the OMB’s website. Let’s look at some of those words.

First of all Office of Management and Budget which is also called OMB. That’s the division within the Governor’s Office that is responsible for preparing the Governor’s budget. That explains why all the budget information and assorted attachments and background info is posted on the OMB website.

Appropriation is a word we hear a lot of as is allocation and they work together. An appropriation is the statutory authorization to spend a specific amount of money for a stated purpose. Funds may not be spent without an appropriation made by law and it’s the Alaska Legislature that makes those laws. I especially like the phrase “a specific amount of money for a stated purpose”.

An allocation is a sub-unity of an appropriation in appropriation bills. In other words, the legislature states this amount of money will be spent on this specific purpose, and the allocation makes guidelines for divvying the money up, but generally doesn’t micromanage.

And finally, one more appropriation related term lapse. Lapse is the expiration of the authorization to spend funds. Used in a sentence…Operating appropriations lapse at the end of the fiscal year unless otherwise specified. In other words spend it or lose it.

These Budget Terms come from a glossary on the OMB’s website where you’ll find info on all kinds of things related to the state’s budget.

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Resources:

Glossary of Alaska Budget Words

A listing of words that you may want to have around when reading the state’s budget. Mostly, the glossary is easy to understand, though there are a few phrases that only an accountant could understand.

Alaska Office of Management and Budget (OMB) page with info on Alaska Operating and Capital Budgets and other budget information

 

 

New Session of Alaska Legislature begins Jan. 21

28th Alaska Legislature

Second Session

January 21, 2014 to April 20, 2014

Second Session means:

All bills from last year are still active
New bills can be introduced
ALL old and new bills will die at the end of this session.

 

 

The Alaska Legislature gavels into session on Jan. 21st. Legislators have 90 days to take care of business before the session ends on April 20th.

Let’s review how this legislative session stuff works, because it determines the fate of bills being considered this session.

We are heading into what is officially known as the second session of the 28th Alaska Legislature. There are two sessions to each legislature.

It can be confusing because two back-to-back sessions work together as one. Then everything stops and the next two back-to-back legislative sessions work together as one.

I like to think of the 2 sessions as Legislature with a Capital L and a Number. That way when I see it written or hear it the number mentioned I know they are talking about BOTH sessions as a unit.

Knowing what session the legislature is in at a given time, tells you a lot about strategy and politics for the coming session. That’s because of the way the two different sessions work together and how bills and legislation works before, during and after the two sessions.

Here’s how it works. Everything starts fresh first session. Things from the first session live on through the second session. Any measure that isn’t approved by the end of the second session dies. Gonzo. The slate is wiped clean and everything starts fresh again the following year, in year one of the next Numbered Legislature.

Since we are entering the second session of the 28th Legislature that means that all the bills and resolutions that were not approved last year are still there—right where they were left. If they have been heard in three out of five committees they were scheduled for then they still have two more to go.

If a bill was hustled along last year, it could still stall out this year and get stuck in committee while the legislature acts on items it feels is more pressing in these final 90 days of activity.

This also means that if a bill you are interested in is still on the table somewhere, it could be passed this session even if it didn’t see much action last year.

And conversely, if you’ve got a measure you want to see passed, you’d better hustle and get it going. If it doesn’t pass by April 20th, it will die at the end of the session. And you’ll have to start all over again from the beginning next year if you hope to see the measure become law in Alaska.

My Obamacare journey Installment 1

Count me among the millions in the country and the thousands in Alaska that don’t have health insurance.

I’m looking forward to really digging in and learning about how the Affordable Care Act works for Alaskans. And I’ll be sharing my journey here on The LegHead Report’s website.

businesses,health insurance,healthcare,medicines,metaphors

Microsoft Graphic

There are  a number of articles posted on The LegHead Report Facebook page that everyone should find useful.

Here is my Live Chat with the person at the official Obamacare site (healthcare.gov), which wasn’t very useful.

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Live Chat Sept 25 Wed about 4:15 pm AST with Yadira at HealthCare.gov

(HealthCare.gov is the official Obamacare site where you go to learn more and to sign up for the insurance exchange.)

[4:06:03 pm]: Thanks for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. Please wait while we connect you to someone who can help.
[4:06:06 pm]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[4:06:15 pm]: Welcome! You’re now connected to Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat.

Thanks for contacting us. My name is Yadira. To protect your privacy, please don’t provide any personal information, like Social Security Number, or any other sensitive medical or personal information.

[4:06:37 pm]: Maggie
Hi. I live in Kodiak, Alaska 99615. How can I get help to register?
[4:06:46 pm]: Yadira
Welcome to the Health Insurance Marketplace, my name is Yadira, how may I help you?
[4:07:28 pm]: Maggie
When I type in my zip code for 99615 the computer says there is 0 help in my area. Got any suggestions?
[4:07:41 pm]: Yadira
Open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace begins on October 1, 2013. You can take a number of steps now to prepare for open enrollment. This includes gathering basic information like your household income, making a list of questions you might have before you choose your health plan, and visiting HealthCare.gov to learn about different types of insurance and common terminology.

When enrollment begins, you can find and submit an application online, over the phone, or by mailing it to the Marketplace. In addition to calling us here, you will have access to in-person assistance to help answer your application questions.

The Marketplace will offer a single application that determines your eligibility for multiple health care programs, including private plans, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. You will also be able to find out if you’re eligible for lower costs on your monthly premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs. If the Marketplace determines that you are eligible, you will be able to compare health plans and select the plan that meets the needs of your family and your budget.

[4:08:30 pm]: Maggie
Does this mean you can’t offer any help as to where to go locally for information? Is there someplace in Alaska that I can call for info?
[4:09:49 pm]: Maggie
Hello? Are you still there?
[4:10:26 pm]: Yadira
Thank you for your patience.
[4:11:46 pm]: Yadira
Federal grants are helping states and territories start or strengthen consumer assistance programs that can help you with any health insurance problems. They can help you file complaints or appeals and understand your rights and responsibilities.

Even if your state does not have a consumer assistance program, you still have rights and protections under the health care law, including the right to appeal decisions made by your health insurance provider.

If you are covered by a job-based health plan, you can contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor at askebsa.dol.gov or 1-

[4:12:56 pm]: Maggie
OK. This wasn’t much help. I’ll keep trying.
[4:13:15 pm]: Yadira
You may want assistance during the application and enrollment process, and there will be many resources available to help you. In all states, the Health Insurance Marketplace will offer several kinds of assistance to help you understand your health coverage options and select a plan that meets your needs.

Beginning October 1, 2013, there will be people in your community trained and certified to help you. They will be known by different names, for instance Navigators, application assisters, or certified application counselors, depending on who provides the service and where they are located, but all will provide similar kinds of help. Insurance agents and brokers can also help you with your application and choices.

Also, assistance is available 24/7 by calling us here or through the online chat at HealthCare.gov.

[4:15:12 pm]: Yadira
Do you have any other questions that I can help you with?
[4:15:31 pm]: Yadira
Thank you for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
[4:15:38 pm]: Your chat session is over. Thanks for contacting us, and we hope we’ve answered your questions. Have a great day.
[4:15:38 pm]: 9/25/2013

Legwords making sense of the legislative language

TLHR Oct 25 Thurs Leg Words and Leg Glossary

 

Resources:

Dictionary of Legislative Terms

This link takes you to a page on the Official Alaska  Legislature Non-Partisan Site.

Lots of really good info on this page. The link for the glossary is in the right hand column.

 

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The Alaska Legislative Toolbox

 The Alaska Legislative Toolbox  A great resource, a Go-To spot for all kinds of information about the state such as filing for a PFD or getting a driver’s license.

Also the legislature, the legislative process and how to get involved.

Do you know what these words mean?

TLHR Aug 21 Tues Leg Words from Glos of Leg Terms

Let’s look at some legwords.

First of all executive order. You may recall a few weeks ago we had a story about the state’s new tsunami debris website. Governor Parnell had issued an Executive Order delineating a special system being set up to handle not only the debris itself, but also to provide Alaskans a source they can contact with information. Part of the executive order required that each of the departments involved have one person designated as the go-to, or call-catcher for people calling in trying to get information on what to do about tsunami debris they spot.

An executive order is an order of the governor that has the force of law and makes changes in the assignment of agency functions. That definition comes from Glossary of Legislative Terms which is posted on the legislature’s official website.

It also says that executive orders may be disapproved by the Alaska Legislature meeting in joint session.

This brings us to Uniform Rules. Uniform Rules are adopted during a joint session of both legislative bodies. They set out uniform procedures for enacting bills and law and adopting resolutions.
Uniform rules are required by the Alaska Constitution.

That brings us to the next question…what’s a joint session? A joint session is a combined meeting of both the House and the Senate. They hold these joint sessions when required or authorized by the Alaska Constitution and the rules of the Legislature. They are used for confirmation hearings, addresses by the Governor or members of the Alaska Congressional Delegation and for veto overrides.

And that takes us now to our final legword for the day. State of the State Address. That is the annual address by Alaska’s governor to a joint session of the legislature. It’s usually held during the first weeks of the legislative session. Its purpose is to give the legislature—and by extension Alaska residents—information concerning the affairs of the State and to recommend measures the governor feels are necessary.
These legwords come from a useful downloadable document called Glossary of Legislative Terms. It’s one of those things you may not be keen on reading—until you have a need to figure out what the heck is going on.

Resources

Glossary of Legislative Terms (Will download a pdf file)