By now, most of you know we have a budget challenge: Over the past two years, Alaska’s oil revenue has plummeted by 88 percent, mainly due to a sharp drop in oil prices.

We’ve cut the budget from $8 billion in 2012 to $4.8 billion. Despite these reductions, our deficit amounts to more than half our annual budget.

When it comes to K-12 education, America’s parents want more choices.

In fact, almost two thirds of parents – 64 percent – say they wish they had more options for their children’s education.

In a society where Americans choose practically everything, from the brands of coffee they drink in the morning to the types of cars they drive, it is understandable that parents are demanding more of a say in where they send their children to school.

A few days ago it was Christmas morning. For many people, excitement and smells of a holiday feast filled the air. Gifts were nestled under the tree wrapped in brightly colored paper and bows.

Children were wide-eyed in awe of what was inside the box that had their name on it. Dazzling lights and sounds of jingle bells provided a backdrop to this much anticipated moment. It was a time for family and friends to come together, exchange gifts, feast, and for many to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Over the past several years there have been significant cost increases to building developers and owners in the Municipality of Anchorage. The costs associated with construction from Title 21 are significant. In addition, permit fees in Title 23 have increased over 400% in many instances and existing code discrepancies on reports have exploded in number.

Now the MOA Community Development Department Building Official has recently sent letters to building owners indicating that over 50% of them are not maintaining their building’s safely and will be subject to $300 per day fines.

Fixing the flawed No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB, has been years in the making. This past week, we’ve reached a major milestone. On Thursday, the President signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, referred to as ESSA.

Congress passed NCLB in 2001, the year before I came to the U.S. Senate.

It was intended to help states identify and focus on the educational disparities among students and take steps to improve schools that did not serve students well. That was necessary. Despite its obvious flaws, NCLB had good intentions.

When it comes to meeting challenges, our response is simple: We serve. In over 200 countries and 1.4 million strong we serve in hospitals and senior centers, in regions battered by natural disaster, in schools and eyeglass recycling centers, Lions are doing community volunteer work, helping, leading, planning and supporting.

Because we’re local, we can serve the unique needs of the communities we live in. And because we’re global, we can address challenges that go beyond borders.

This was an historic week for Alaska. Thanks to our state legislators, we took a significant step toward controlling our own destiny.

The Legislature held about two weeks of hearings to examine my proposal to buy out TransCanada’s interest, then almost unanimously approved my request to exercise our option to take over Alaska’s share of the gas pipeline project.

This is not just a financial or contractual arrangement. It’s so much more. For the first time in a long time, Alaska is stepping up and taking out the middleman between us and our future.

I’m inspired. I am the nurse at Chugiak Elementary.

I arrived at work this morning (Nov. 5) to a healthy breakfast for all staff provided by ACF Church. There is a note which reads, “Thank you for investing in our children”.  Shortly thereafter, Mary Meechum from the Lions Club signs in to photo screen over 100 students. Mary mentions that the new photoscreening machine is wonderful and her club raised over $8,000 to cover the cost.

I have officially lost faith in humanity and this universe as a whole.

Last Thursday evening (Oct. 22) about 7:20 while at Fred Meyer, my back window got smashed and someone broke in my car and stole my flight bag. Everything in there is literally nothing he can use. No money no nothing. I had a flashlight, flight attendant cards, a toothbrush, and a library book. But I also had my Bryan journal in there. A journal that my friend Amber gave me the day of my brother’s funeral.

In their quest to keep busy in the community by serving, the Bear Mountain Leos have decided on a monthly project of providing monthly meals to those at the Fisher House. 

The first meal was wild rice/chicken soup with salad. The second entailed various breakfast items. The Bear Mountain Leos are the youth of lionism from ages from 13-18. They meet each week at the Boys and Girls Clubs and plan their community activities.