Hello again. After just a few months away from the Capitol following adjournment of the third special session in July, legislators will once again return to Juneau for a special session beginning on Monday, Oct. 23. On the agenda are Senate Bill 54, and the governor’s payroll tax proposal. The session could last up to 30 days.
SB 54 Changes Criminal Justice Laws
SB 54 makes substantive revisions to the criminal justice reform package passed last year in SB 91. The much-talked about, and often criticized, 2016 law was a bipartisan legislative effort that made major changes to the state’s crime and punishment laws in an effort to reduce Alaska’s prison population and costs. SB 54 gives courts more discretion to set appropriate sentences for repeat theft offenders and for first-time Class C felonies, which encompass a wide range of criminal conduct. The bill also re-establishes violating a condition of release to a crime punishable by jail time.
SB 54 has the support of the Walker administration, as well as many law enforcement officials and prosecuting attorneys.
I voted in favor of SB 54 when it passed the Senate 19-1 on April 7. The bill is currently awaiting a formal hearing in the House State Affairs Committee, with further referrals to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Finance Committee.
(You can find out more on SB 54 at http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Home/BillsandLaws)
Governor’s Payroll Tax Legislation
The governor’s proposal calls for a payroll tax of 1.5 percent of wages earned by Alaskans and non-resident workers. The amount would be capped at twice the previous year’s Permanent Fund Dividend amount. If the bill were in effect in 2018, for example, the highest tax one would pay is $2,200, based on this year’s PFD amount of $1,100. According to the governor, the proposed tax will generate between $300 million and $325 million, with about 15 percent of the revenue coming from non-resident workers.
The legislation will be given a bill number and committee referrals when the special session commences.
As the Senate has already taken on SB 54, we will focus our attention on the payroll tax bill, including holding hearings on the legislation at the Anchorage Legislative Building. Scheduling details have yet to be announced.
Let Us Know What You Think
I welcome your comments on both special session agenda items and encourage you to add your thoughts to the record. Please check with the Legislative Information Office (LIO) near you for details on how you can offer your testimony to lawmakers.
The Cordova LIO can be reached at (907) 424-5461
The Homer LIO can be reached at (907) 235-7878.
The Kenai LIO can be reached at (907) 283-2030.
The Kodiak LIO can be reached at (907) 486-8116.
Finance Committee Assignment
Due to changes in the Senate Majority’s membership, I have been asked to serve on the Senate Finance Committee for the remainder of the 30th Alaska State Legislature. I am honored to be selected for this critically important committee and look forward working with my colleagues on the numerous issues coming before us.
In addition to serving on the Finance Committee, I will continue to serve as Chair of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate World Trade Committee. I will also remain a member of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committees, and an alternate member of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.
Tracking the Alaska Legislature
You can follow the work of the Senate on the Internet at: www.alaskasenate.org/2016/. The site provides much information on the Senate Majority’s efforts and membership.
Alaska’s public television system produces Gavel Alaska, which broadcasts live and recorded coverage of floor sessions and committee hearings. The programming is also on the Internet at: http://www.360north.org/.
AlaskaLegislature.tv offers live coverage of meetings from all of the Capitol’s committee rooms. This service is provided by the legislature.
You can also access information on any bills and resolutions introduced during the 30th Alaska Legislature through the Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS) on the Internet at: www.akleg.gov/basis.
Assistance with State Agencies
My staff is available to assist you with matters involving state government throughout the year. Please give us a call if we may be of assistance to you.
The phone number for our Kodiak office is 907-486-4925.
Call us in the Capitol building toll free at 1-800-821-4925.
E-mail me at email@example.com
My interim address is:
Senator Gary Stevens
305 Center Ave, Suite 1
Kodiak, AK 99615
Thanks for reading this edition of the Interim Report. Please keep in touch.