Point of View: HB 137 supports Alaska rural communities like Homer

House Bill 137 was introduced by Rep. Zack Fields. The bill will keep State Division of Motor Vehicle offices open and stop the predatory and discriminatory “convenience fees” charged to senior citizens and all Alaskans by so called “private partnerships” for DMV mandated requirements.

The community of Homer is being hard hit by this poorly crafted budget proposal. Rep. Sarah Vance has not taken a position on this issue. Let her know you support HB 137.

These six community DMV closures were targeted because these community residents who are now referred to as “data points” would present the least “backlash,” per testimony by Department of Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka. She also testified that the DOA is data analytic and data point driven.

Alaska seniors and many of our rural area residents are required to have in person access to a state DMV office for transactions by statute. Yet, currently lack of internet access for many transactions (20% of Alaskans and up to 30% of seniors do not have internet) prevent these fellow Alaskans from doing transactions online. So does the lack of an email address or a credit card. DMV associated requirements are mandatory, not optional, and should be provided at state DMV offices. All six of the DMV slated for closure are profitable. The burden of several million dollars in “convenience fees” above the state mandated DMV fees to be forced on only some Alaskans as proposed, is unconscionable, unreasonable and unAlaskan.

By reversing the proposed state DMV closures in Delta Junction, TOK, Homer, Eagle River, Haines and Valdez, HB137 protects Alaska’s seniors, disabled, rural, lower income and Native Alaskans from discriminatory actions based upon where they live, their age and their physical status.

By restoring the state DMV facilities to the rightful and just place in our community, HB 137 says “no” to harmful unregulated fees and “yse” to Alaskans. HB 137 is not Republican, it is not Democrat. HB137 is for and about Alaskans.

In addition, HB 137 prohibits the opening of “private partnerships” without legislative approval, effective January 2021. It eliminates the discrimination against senior, disabled, rural, lower income and Native Alaskans that was part of the budget proposal to close state operated DMV offices in six rural Alaska communities. In House and Senate testimony, DoA officials testified that no private partnerships had yet been awarded for the affected communities (except Delta Junction in 2020), testifying, that it is a legislative decision.

HB137 is good for seniors; it is good for Alaskans; it is bipartisan; it is the Alaska way.

Please tell all legislators to vote “yes” on HB 137.

Peter Zuyus is Executive Director, Seniors of Alaska, and a retired technology executive and former Chief Information Officer for the State of Alaska. Seniors of Alaska is a nonprofit organization consisting of Alaska seniors and established to represent Alaska senior citizen perspectives and to guarantee their equitable treatment by municipal, borough and state agencies. For more, visit www.seniorsofalaska.org.