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NAACP shares federal concerns with Senator Dan Sullivan

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Photo by Robyne
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The Fairbanks chapter of the NAACP met with U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan yesterday. In a hastily organized meeting, the Executive Committee agreed to meet at a local church after Sunday services. In a room filled with school board members, church pastors and university and banking professionals, questions were raised about discrimination in law enforcement, voting rights, and teacher-to-student ratios. NAACP president Bennie Colbert and the partial government shutdown.

“It’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about these people out here who don’t have a paycheck…

Sullivan said he's been putting a lot of energy into limiting the impact of the shutdown on Alaskans.

"We have huge fisheries opened in January. Billion-dollar fisheries. And what I’ve been doing literally since all this started, is working with federal agencies; they have to sign off on inspections, they have to sign off on plans. So, I’ve been very focused on that.”

Alaska’s pollock fishery opened yesterday. Most boats are still getting by on licenses and inspections which occurred before the shutdown.

Sullivan also told the group he is working on the Pay Our Coast Guard Act to remedy the fact that of all five military services, only the Coast Guard is not getting paid during this partial shutdown. He hopes to get it passed this week.

Sullivan has also asked the Secretary of the Senate to withhold his own paycheck until all federal workers are paid.

Dorothy Jones asked about changes proposed to weaken Title IX, the federal law that allows equal protection for students.

“The proposed changes by the Secretary of Education, that narrows the definition of sexual harassment, and it alters when schools are required to respond to reports of sexual harassment and violence.”

Sullivan said he would look into changes proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He also noted the Violence Against Women Act has expired and cannot be renewed during the shutdown. He emphasized his track record on domestic violence and sexual abuse in Alaska, and explained his recent federal legislation, the Pro Bono Work to Empower and Represent (POWER) Act. It was passed in September.

“Studies show that if you are in a cycle of abuse, the best way to break out of that cycle is to get the victim a lawyer. I’m hopeful it will create an army of thousands of lawyers who do pro-bono work for survivors of domestic violence, not just in Alaska, but nationally.”

The law won’t actually fund any legal services, but encourages attorneys to donate their time.

Sullivan is visiting Fairbanks today (Monday) and will attend the free Martin Luther King Day legal clinic at the J.P. Jones Center to thank lawyers volunteering there.