Petersburg Pilot -

Local high schooler sits in on legislative session

 

Submitted Photo

Martin stands with Governor Bill Walker (left) and Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (right) in the state capitol.  "I loved it," Martin said of her experience during the session. "It was so, so fun. It felt so special to be part of something like that."

Petersburg High School sophomore Helen Martin returned from a trip to the legislature last month after participating in a program created by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins to engage young people in local and state politics.

"It will be four days in Juneau in our office; total immersion, tracking legislation, sitting in on committee hearings, staffing the house floor and we're really excited and Helen is a beacon of enthusiastic energy," Kreiss-Tomkins said of the program and Martin.

Martin was there February 12-17 and worked in the capital for three days.

"Before I had really gotten the tour it felt a little overwhelming because there were just so many people," Martin said. "At first it felt like people were thinking 'why is there a fifteen year old here?' but after a little while I realized everyone there is super friendly and they're really happy to have someone there that was interested."

One of Martin's duties was to input data into spreadsheets based on 450 survey results on people's opinions of what should be done about the state budget crisis.

"What I had found most was that people do not like oil tax credits," Martin said.

She said she was also surprised to see how many people were willing to change the PFD structure to help balance the budget.

"There were quite a few people that said since it was such a huge privilege for Alaskans then at least a little bit could be put back into the government, which I thought was pretty cool that everyone was kind of willing to do that," Martin said.

Martin said before her trip to the capital, she didn't fully understand how important oil revenues were for the funding of state government. She sat in on a committee meeting as members discussed ways to increase state revenues and decrease spending.

"Those representatives work incredibly hard," Martin said. "They're overworked, underpaid and under appreciated. Its really impressive how hard they work for us."

 

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