SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

30th Alaska State Legislature Adjourns Sine Die



May 14, 2018
Monday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - After a flurry of legislative action passing a budget approving $4.8 billion for government services and capital projects, the Alaska House of Representatives joined the Alaska Senate in adjourning the Second Session of the 30th Alaska Legislature sine die early Sunday morning.

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“Lawmakers in the House and Senate - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents - worked together to reach a budget compromise.” said Governor Bill Walker. “I commend the Legislature for passing a budget on time, and addressing the vast majority of the budget deficit. Steps taken during this administration have closed 80 percent of what was a $3.7 billion dollar deficit. Alaska has turned the corner.”

Lawmakers agreed with many legislative and spending priorities proposed by Governor Bill Walker in December, passing the Governor’s most important legislative goals focused on building a safer, smarter, and stronger Alaska. 

Alaska Senate President Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) said, “The Senate stopped a series of new tax proposals - including a personal income tax - held the line on spending, protected the Permanent Fund from a raid, approved a plan to pay down our debts, and addressed crime. At every point, and with every policy we pursued, our guiding principles were always in focus: Government should be limited, people should be free, and we must protect the private sector of the economy.” 

Key components of this year’s spending plan include:

The state operating budget for Fiscal Year 2019 will invest more in public safety and also passed elements of Governor Walker’s Public Safety Action Plan  which is designed to improve the quality and fairness of Alaska’s justice system. 

Legislators approved $27 million of the Governor’s public safety priorities, as well as $7 million for other public safety concerns. This allows for more prosecutors in Anchorage, Bethel, and Kotzebue, more frequent trooper travel to rural communities, a statewide drug prosecutor, investigators to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and more.

Lawmakers approved $3.5 million to begin enhancing 911 services. Governor Walker requested $9.5 million to modernize the system.

Each Alaskan will receive a $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend. The Alaska House of Representatives previously resended its March 26th amendent in April that added the full $2,707 PFD for each Alaskan, providing instead a PFD of $1,600.

Some legislatures are saying dividends in 2018 are going forward possibly because of SB 26, which they say will guarantee the longevity of the Permanent Fund and a robust dividend program by making sure draws from the fund are structured and sustainable. SB 26 is said will reduce this year’s deficit from $2.4 billion to $700 million. 

The passage of SB 26 is said to be a landmark achievement for the State of Alaska. Passing SB 26 closes the majority of Alaska’s deficit, and puts Alaska on track toward a stable economy, new investments, and unprecedented opportunities on Alaska’s doorstep. 

Lawmakers approved a $20 million increase in school funding for the upcoming school year, forward funded education for the year after with a $30 million increase, and invested $19.5 million for improvement grants over the next several years. Lawmakers say parents and teachers deserve certainty that Alaska’s schools will be funded consistently each year. Forward funding education, will give Alaska’s schools and teachers the resources and confidence they deserve, without fear of annual pink slips.

The Legislature's budget also invested $10 million into the university budget, to help prioritize programs and focus on what they do best: educating Alaskans.

Legislators also approved Governor Walker’s proposal to use bonds to pay oil tax credits owed to small oil and gas exploration companies. HB 331 creates a State corporation authorized to issue up to $1 billion in bonds for the sole purpose of purchasing outstanding oil and gas tax credits. The bill is said would also provide incentives for companies to receive a smaller discount on their credits if companies share seismic data with the state, agree to a larger royalty share for the state from some fields, or commit to reinvest the funds back into Alaska within two years. In exchange for getting paid now rather than waiting years, small companies that are owed credits will accept a discounted rate, saving the state a significant amount of money.

This legislation will issue bond debt to pay off the more than $800 million balance the state owes for oil and gas tax credits. According to the Alaska House, the bill would discount the tax credit payments to more than cover the additional cost to the state of interest on the bond debt, which the state will pay down over the next decade. In this manner, those supporting the legislation say companies owed credits receive cash they can reinvest in additional development today while keeping the measure revenue neutral or revenue positive for the State of Alaska.

Legislators also funded the Governor’s proposal to maintain the senior benefits program through June of 2024, which assists nearly 12,000 low-income elders and pioneers across Alaska. The Senior Benefits Program provides a modest monthly cash assistance of $76, $175 or $250 monthly payments to help buy essential items necessary such as groceries, medication, rent, utilities, etc.  Eligibility is determined based on the three tiers of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for Alaska. Not all senior citizens are eligible. (House Bill 236).

Alaska Senate Majority Leader Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) said,  “We thank Alaskans for remaining engaged and reaching out to us on what is most important. We heard you. We removed the ‘Welcome to Alaska’ sign for criminals from elsewhere while tightening up our laws so that they are bad for criminals and good for law-abiding Alaskans. Fiscally, we prioritized what needed to be done and remained on the high road toward sustainability. We stood strong when oil prices were low to avoid permanently impacting Alaskans with taxes and unnecessary financial burden.  We reduced the operating budget significantly and prioritized key services Alaskans count on in their daily lives. We protected the health of the Permanent Fund and PFDs in perpetuity without restructuring the Fund or the existing dividend formula. The Senate’s actions helped to ensure that the worst of the recession is behind us and a promising future lies ahead.”

“We sent a clear message to criminals across the state and in the Lower 48: You are not welcome here. This session, we put an end to ‘catch-and-release,’ and gave police and prosecutors the tools they need to fight crime and restore law and order,” said Sen. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) chairman of the Alaska Senate Rules Committee.

Co-chair of the Alaska Senate Finance Committee Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) said , “With fewer resources available, the Senate prioritized the state’s constitutional obligations and passage of Senate Bill 26 to provide stability to our economy. With an endowment model limiting the amount of money legislators can draw from Permanent Fund earnings, businesses and entrepreneurs can confidentially invest in Alaska for the long-term. And Alaskans can rest assured that the state has provided adequate funding for the troopers, educators and heath care providers they rely on every day.” 

Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel) co-chair of the Alaska Senate Finance Committee said, "The 30th Alaska Legislature took historic action this year to address the state’s fiscal challenge. For the first time in our state’s history, we are utilizing the Permanent Fund for one of its original purposes: to pay for state services when revenue from oil production is not enough.” 

Members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition also reflected on their legislative achievements of the session. 

“Goal number one of most politicians is to avoid political risk at all cost. That doesn’t apply to the men and women of the Alaska House Majority Coalition. We took huge political risks over the past two years and set an example for openness and transparency I hope future legislatures will emulate. Too often politics is judged by who wins and who loses. I admit that we lost some, but I stand proudly with my House Majority colleagues in celebrating our wins. We faced more obstacles to success than any legislature in Alaska’s history, and as I step away from the House I judge our Coalition a success,” said Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks), House Finance Committee member.

Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) House Finance Committee member said, “Nearly every day I speak with people who are concerned about the future of Alaska. I share many of those concerns. Our job as lawmakers is to work every day to help people and to secure a brighter future for our great state. My colleagues in the Alaska House Majority Coalition worked diligently for the past two years on solutions. We did this by ditching the old pattern of partisan politics in favor of hard work and listening to the will of the people.”

Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage) Chair of the House Education Committee said, “What I will remember from the last two years is the moving public testimony that brought many of us to tears. Sometimes they were tears of sadness and other times they were tears of joy. The legislative process can be very frustrating to watch and often even more frustrating to be part of, but I am deeply grateful for my friends in this Coalition. We cast aside politics to work together. In doing so we addressed some incredibly important issues during what will always be considered a remarkable legislative session."

“The most important thing we can all do to protect the future of Alaska is to realize that the politics of winners and losers is counterproductive to real solutions. I took some extremely tough votes over the past two years with the goal of protecting Alaskan jobs, the Alaska economy, and our education system. If the alternative is inaction, there was no choice at all. We did a lot of good things this session, some very good,” said Rep. Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks), Chair of the House Energy Committee.   

“I am thrilled to have passed health care price transparency, protected the Permanent Fund, and secured funding increases for the next two years for K-12 and pre-k education,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), Chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee. 

House Finance Committee member Rep. Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage) said, “I came into office last year dedicated to addressing our fiscal issues, but also to see reforms that build trust and create transparency for the people of Alaska. As we gavel out of my first term in office, I’m both proud and humbled by what has been accomplished. This legislature, I’ve passed a monumental legislative reform package, been part of a historic vote protecting the Permanent Fund and PFD, and have taken critical steps towards increasing public safety, education, and getting our economic future back on track. It’s been amazing to get to connect with my neighbors and to serve the people of District 22 with everything I’ve got."

Co-Chair of the House Resources Committee  Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) said, “I’m proud that our House Majority Coalition prioritized public safety by passing rape kit reform legislation along with funding to address our backlog of untested rape kits. This is a huge step forward and will bring justice to victims."

“Our Coalition formed with the goal to ignore party labels and partisanship in favor of fiscal solutions for the State of Alaska and all Alaskans. We passed a responsible operating budget that makes sure essential public services are delivered and advanced the dialogue around the need for long-term fiscal solutions. I am grateful that our Coalition stood fast for a larger $1,600 PFD this fall when both the Governor and Senate Majority wanted PFDs set around $1,000,” said House Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer).

“Although I would have preferred a complete fiscal plan this year, we made some great progress for Alaskans. Senate Bill 26, which fills over 75 percent of our deficit, was passed into law. We passed a responsible budget that included critical items for my district that, among other things, added a $20 million infusion to the Alaska Marine Highway Fund, as well as increased funding to operate fish weirs and fly more aerial surveys in Kodiak. This will provide a direct benefit to our hard-working fishermen and economy. I believe our work this session took a big step towards a sustainable fiscal plan while passing a responsible budget that reflects my constituents’ priorities of funding for fisheries management, ferry service, public safety, and education,” said House Majority Whip Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak). 

“The Alaska House Majority Coalition elected the first Alaska Native Speaker of the House, and we are the first non-binding majority caucus in state history. We are the most diverse majority caucus in history with conservative Republicans, progressive Democrats, strong-willed Independents, and everything in between. Every day we went to work for the people of Alaska, and for that I am proud,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).

“The Alaska Permanent Fund and the PFDs that represent our shared oil wealth are so important to the Alaskan way of life that I refused to toss them aside in favor of politics. The Permanent Fund dividend will continue to be eyed with envy by politicians, special interests, and outsiders until it's protected in the Alaska Constitution,” said Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage), Chair of the House Rules Committee. 

“I am grateful to serve in the 30th Alaska Legislature. Our coalition was successful in early funding public education for the next two years, and we came together to pass some important public safety reforms. A more personal victory was the passage of House Bill 213 to modernize the Alaska Public School Trust Fund. The bill will bring in millions of new earnings from a $650 million fund by modernizing the fund’s management to allow a more predictable draw and continued growth. The bill also creates an education raffle and endowment, the proceeds of which will go to schools on top of their regular funding,” said Rep. Justin Parish (D-Juneau), Co-Chair of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee.

House Finance Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) said, “We made lives better for children, those battling addiction, and those who deserve to be safe in their homes. I can walk out of this session proud that we passed some, but not all of the things I believe we needed to pass to improve this state."

“Our Coalition will be noteworthy in Alaska history for bravely confronting Alaska’s enormous fiscal instability and uncertainties. Whatever might be said about this majority, we acted boldly, courageously, and without fear. The House Resources Committee was unique in presenting legislation reflecting the viewpoints of all Alaskans, including but not limited to the voice of resource developers. The Resources Committee heard or advanced legislation on everything from the Pebble Mine to climate change, and from wildlife management to toxic flame-retardant chemicals. Perhaps never in the history of Alaska was there a more balanced showing of the many environmental and natural resources issues confronting Alaska,” said Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), House Resources Committee Co-Chair.

“Our Coalition was unwavering in our commitment to improve public safety and respond to the concerns of our friends and neighbors in the community. House Bill 312 advanced the shared public safety priorities of the House, Senate, Governor Walker, and the people of Alaska. That bill, together with the five new prosecutors and other public safety measures we funded in the budget, will make Alaska safer, but we still have work to do to respond to the opioid crisis and to make up for the ill-advised cuts to public safety over the last several years,” said Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Representing House District 38 in the Alaska Legislature has been one of the greatest privileges so far in my career. And yet, it has also been very challenging at times. Alaska is faced with wide-reaching, complex, issues and I joined the effort to find solutions on day 53. I have worked with my new colleagues for the last 64 days trying to serve the everyday Alaskans who need government to work for them, not against them. With that said, I am looking forward to going home. It’s almost berry picking season,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel), Co-Chair of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee.

Speaker of the Alaska House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) said, “Every member of the Legislature brings his or her own set of principles and priorities to Juneau, and they all have value and legitimacy. But to get things done—and to do right by the people—you eventually have to meet somewhere in the middle. It’s not easy to find that balance, and no one enjoys compromising on the goals they have for the state and for the district they serve, but I’m proud that the House raised the dividend to $1600, and that we increased funding for our schools, for safer towns and villages, for fish & game management, and more. Also, I am pleased that a tone of integrity, trust, and cooperation this session helped lead us to its successful conclusion, well within our Constitutional deadline."

Alaska House Republicans said they remained committed to their guiding principles and conservative values, and fought for spending reductions, job creation, economic recovery, public safety and personal freedoms. 

“I’m filled with immense pride to have led such a dedicated group, who showed a strong commitment to Alaskans through countless hours targeting government efficiencies and budget reductions, fighting to pass important legislation and vetting proposals from colleagues and the Governor,” said House Republican Leader, Representative Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage).

During the 30th Legislature, House Republicans offered legislation to improve the lives of Alaskans, strengthen public safety, reduce needless regulation, reduce the size and cost of government, and promote responsible resource and economic development. House Republicans stopped job-killing bills that would have taxed Alaskans, raised taxes on local businesses, stopped development projects, and grown government. 

Quoting a House Republican news release, "While Republican proposals to reduce government by hundreds of millions of dollars were rejected by the Alaska House Majority Coalition who instead grew the budget, these amendments can still provide a framework for future streamlining and a reduction of government’s spending and footprint."

“I was grateful to see some changes to our new SB 91 pre-trial system.   Between SB 54 and the changes this session we are able to give discretion and tools back to our judges and law-enforcement. While there is more to be done I'm hopeful the next legislature will build on the work this legislature has done on Public Safety,” said Finance Leader Representative Lance Pruitt (R-Anchorage). 

“This session we saw perhaps a record amount of bills to kill jobs and hurt desperately needed economic recovery. House Republicans were a firm ‘no’ to any bill that attempted to make it harder to invest, hire and do business in our state,” said House Republican Whip Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski). “Alaska will only return to economic prosperity if we emphasize job creation and local investment, and Republicans fought throughout this Legislature for those goals.”

“This legislature faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, but I’m proud our caucus was able to lead the way in supporting responsible solutions that will bring Alaska a stronger economy, safer communities, and a freer society,” said Floor Leader Rep. Dan Saddler (R-JBER/Eagle River). “I am particularly proud that we stopped an income tax, fulfilled our obligations to Alaska’s resource industry, and supported creating new jobs in private industry.”

The Alaska House Republicans thanked Alaskans for their support and engagement over the past two years and said they look forward to returning to their districts, and working with their constituents this interim.

Alaska House Republican Bills Passed in the 30th Legislature:

HB 6 – Creation of Jonesville Public Use Area (Rep. Rauscher, R – Sutton/Valdez) 

HB 16 – Drivers License Disability ID and training (Rep. Thompson, R – Fairbanks)

HB 97 – Repeal Alaska Fire Standards Tax Credit (Rep. Thompson, R – Fairbanks)

HB 143 – Naming the Daniel R Fauske Building (Rep. Chenault, R – Nikiski)

HB 147 – Extend Public Accounting Board (Rep. Thompson, R – Fairbanks)

HB 168 – Repeal Administrative Regulation Review Committee (Rep. Chenault, R – Nikiski) 

HB 186 – Remove Food Donations Liability (Rep. Talerico, R – Healy) 

HB 197 – Community Seed Libraries (Rep. Johnston, R – Anchorage) 

HB 213—Crimes Against Medical Professionals (Rep. Kopp, R – Anchorage)

HB 216 – Crime Survivors Restitution Fund (Rep. Chuck Kopp, R – Anchorage)

HB 260 – Electronic Hunting, Fishing & Trapping Licenses (Rep. Dan Saddler, R – JBER/Eagle River)

HB 323 – Extend Board of Pharmacy (Rep. Sullivan-Leonard, R – Wasilla)

HB 333 – Municipality option for cell phone limits (Rep. Chris Birch, R – Anchorage) 

HB 336 – Supportive Decision Making (Rep. Millett, R – Anchorage) 

HCR 10 – Uniform Rules on Regulation Review (Rep. Chenault, R – Nikiski) 

HJR 29 – Reauthorize Secure Rural Schools Act (Rep. Rauscher, R – Sutton/Valdez) 

SB 152 – Establishing September 11thas Patriot Day (Mirrors HB 344 from Rep. Eastman, R – Wasilla)

SB 185 – Reemployment of Retired Teachers & Administrators (Mirrors HB 224 from Rep. Johnston, R - Anchorage) 

SB202 – Native Corp. Liability for Contamination (Mirrors HB 367 from Rep. Millett, R – Anchorage)


Source of News:

Alaska Senate Majority

Alaska House Majority Coalition

Office of Governor Bill Walker



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