No wonder Alaska has been recognized as one of the best-run states in the country. That is, in part, a tribute to your convictions, and to your commitment to your constituents. I thank you.
The question before us tonight is not: What is the state of Alaska? The question is: How can we keep the state of Alaska strong?
Make no mistake: Our present prosperity does not guarantee our future security. The choices we make during this short session will have long-lasting consequences. So let us choose wisely and well.
SAFETY AND RESPECT
To keep the state of our state strong, let us choose a future of safety and respect.
In recent years, we united against three great evils: domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking. Last session, we defined sex trafficking as the terrible crime that it is, and I was proud to sign that bill into law.
Now, when we catch sex traffickers, we can give them a one-way ticket to the one place they belong - prison.
This session, I ask you to build on that effort by passing comprehensive crime legislation addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking.
The bill I propose would increase sentences for child pornography, ensure sex traffickers serve all of their time, require "johns" who target minors to register as sex offenders, and allow court-ordered GPS tracking of abusers, stalkers, and assaulters.
By passing this legislation, we will send a stern message to criminals who prey on the weak: You won't get away, and you will pay.
To ensure predators and other criminals have nowhere to hide, I ask you to fund 15 more Village Public Safety Officers for communities that often have no other law enforcement.
We've already seen what a difference these officers can make. According to the Copper River Native Association, new VPSOs around Glennallen have reduced assaults.
By adding more VPSOs, we can ensure that Alaskans receive the help they need, when they need it, not days later.
Where population growth has strained resources in the Mat-Su, the Kenai Peninsula, and Fairbanks, I ask you to fund 15 more State Trooper positions.
Law enforcement intervention, of course, is only one front in our battle against domestic violence and sexual abuse. The other front is creating a culture of respect through prevention.
Now active in more than 120 communities, our Choose Respect Initiative has helped break cycles of abuse and exploitation. I thank all of you for leading annual marches in your communities.
The cultural wave of respect we have started has swept across our schools and sports fields, and we will not rest until this hopeful tide washes over every corner of our state.
EDUCATION FOR ALASKA'S FUTURE
To keep the state of our state strong, let us also choose a future of higher standards and higher achievement in our schools. The jobs of tomorrow will require more education and more training, so we must begin preparing our students today.
Of all Alaska's natural resources, our children are unquestionably the most valuable.