Legislator of the Week: Alaska State Representative Chris Birch

Legislator of the Week: Alaska State Representative Chris Birch

This week, ALEC and FreedomWorks introduce Alaska State Representative Chris Birch. Representative Chris Birch’s family has a proud history in Alaska beginning in 1944 and now Rep. Birch serves the 26th district. Growing up in mining camps near Fairbanks and the Brooks Range, Chris chose to follow in his father’s footsteps, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1972 and a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management in 1979. As a licensed professional engineer, he has broad experience in both public and private sector business operations and management. This professional experience coupled with his service on the Assembly, along with many other community organizations in Fairbanks and Anchorage, have been instrumental in preparing him to offer the leadership, budget discipline, and experience necessary to move Alaska forward.

Why did you run for office?

As an engineer, I have always been interested in improving system operations, efficiencies and accountability. Accountability to taxpayers—or shareholders—depends on trust, communication, and follow through on deliverables. My public service has been driven by a need to improve the opportunities for our residents to achieve their full potential.

In your view, what is the biggest issue facing Alaska?

In my view, the biggest issue facing Alaska is lack of employment opportunities in a state with a rich history of responsible resource development. Fishing, timber, mining, strategic military location, oil and gas, tourism and air transportation have all contributed to Alaska’s growth and potential. Our greatest issue relates to assuring that we do not strangle our economy by excessive regulation, taxation and misguided public benevolence.

If you could “wave your magic wand,” what would you like to see immediately implemented in Alaska?

If I could “wave my magic wand” I would like to see an abbreviated regulatory review and permitting process with a hard timeline for completion immediately implemented in Alaska. Endless litigation and review drives up the cost of every project (and limits the viability of others) from public infrastructure road and facility projects to major pipelines, mines and other responsible work.

Do you serve on any committees, if so which committees and why? How do you think you have impacted them?

I serve on House Resources, Labor and Commerce, and State Affairs committees.

The House Resources Committee reviews programs and activities of the Department of Fish and Game, Natural Resources, and Environmental Conservation. House Labor and Commerce committee reviews labor-management relations, workforce development, and oversees the programs and activities of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. The House State Affairs Committee oversees the programs and activities of the Department of Administration, Corrections, Public Safety, and Transportation and Public Facilities. These committees hear all subject related legislation and report to the full body on actions and recommendations.

The majority of legislation that goes to the Floor of the House for consideration each session passes through these three committees. This affords me ample opportunity to improve system operations, efficiencies and accountability in the bills that pass both bodies and are eventually signed into law. In my capacity as a committee member I spoke out against government largess while also maintaining support for our workforce and other economic drivers. Resource development is the most significant economic component of our state employment and budget. I have been a particularly strong advocate in committee for responsible resource development and a stable investment climate regarding state take and taxation.

What project or law are you most proud of?

Alaska was one of the last states to pass legislation permitting the operation of Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) such as Uber and Lyft. I was pleased to co-sponsor this bipartisan bill. Additional accomplishments included successful opposition to a state income tax and passage of legislation establishing predictable annual revenue from the state’s $65 billion sovereign wealth fund.

How has ALEC helped you as a legislator?

ALEC serves as an outstanding resource and sounding board for model legislation.

What is your favorite thing about living in Alaska?

My favorite things about living in Alaska are the great people and the great outdoors.

Can you share a fun fact about yourself that’s not in your official bio?

My wife and I recently completed a five-day 33-mile backpacking hike with our two oldest grandchildren (12 and 10) along the historic Chilkoot trail between Alaska and Canada.