JUNEAU -

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich dove head-first into the controversial sea of education funding Monday, in his annual address to a joint session of the state Legislature.

Begich criticized a proposed constitutional amendment pending before the Senate, which would allow public dollars to be used for private classroom instruction.

“There is already plenty of school choice in our public system, from home schools to charter schools, to alternative programs,” Begich said. “I was a product of one of those -- some might agree, some might not.”

The amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 9, is sponsored by state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla).

“We really need folks in D.C. to be looking out for us in D.C. at the federal level,” Dunleavy said. “If the senator is interested in running for a local legislative seat here, I think there would be a lot of folks who would support him.”

While lawmakers at Monday’s may not have seen eye-to-eye with Begich on education, they did find common ground on federal overreach. Begich pledged to keep sticking up for Alaska’s rights, fighting moves to prevent oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and mining projects across the state.

“To stop proposals that would permanently block up ANWR, to stand up to the EPA for blocking mines between Ketchikan and Kotzebue, to stand down to the Obama Administration to protect our 2nd Amendment rights,” Begich said.

Despite his belligerent stance on those issues, Begich says he’s also working with the Obama administration on clearing red tape to permit building an eight-mile road between drilling sites on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Begich has also introduced legislation to build a road linking King Cove and Cold Bay through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, opposed by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. In December, Jewell rejected a federal-state Aleutians land swap to facilitate the road, overriding the concerns of King Cove residents who want access to an all-weather airport in Cold Bay during medical emergencies.

A spokesperson for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who spoke before the Legislature last month, says her office introduced a similar bill in 2009. While the measure was signed into law, the road was never built.

Begich also pledged to continue pushing for changes in the Affordable Care Act.  He says although the law isn’t perfect, every Alaskan now has a health care plan.

In a statement Monday night, House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) blasted Begich’s positions on education and oil taxation, calling the speech “more spin from Sen. Begich.” He reserved some of his harshest words for Begich’s stance on the ACA.

“He can’t have it both ways,” Chenault said in the statement. “Don’t vote for a bill if you know it’s a bad bill. Don’t vote for a bill if you don’t know what’s in it, or the consequences to Alaskans.”

Begich was one of 60 senators to vote yes on the controversial health care law, which passed in 2010.