Greetings from the Capitol. We are just about two-thirds of the way through the 90-day legislative session. Like every year, there is always a lot going on in Juneau, and like every year, a lot of work lies ahead before adjournment.
By statute, the 90-day session is scheduled to end Sunday, April 15. The Legislature, however, can extend the session for 30 days after that if needed, and a special session called by the governor on specific issues is also possible.
I assure you no legislator wants to extend session beyond 90-days but finding agreement on the budget and other important matters may require some additional time in the Capitol again this year.
Operating Budget in the House
Usually, in mid-March, the House of Representatives will hold floor hearings and take a vote on the operating budget bill before transmitting it to the Senate for further consideration. However, the House has postponed further action on the budget bill, HB 286, until they consider HJR 23, a resolution which proposes enshrining the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) in the state constitution, while guaranteeing future dividend payments at a set amount.
With the House needing to meet the threshold of 27 votes to pass the resolution onto the Senate for consideration, HJR 23 may not advance to our body. The debate will be useful, however, as we consider discussions on what role Permanent Fund earnings will have in funding state government services in the future.
When the budget bill does arrive in the Senate, it will be referred directly to the Finance Committee, of which I am a member, for debate and amendments. Please contact the Legislative Information Office (LIO) near you if you would like to testify on the budget when it is open to public hearing.
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.
Personal Legislation Update
I was pleased to receive unanimous support from my senate colleagues for SB 15, which passed our body on Thursday, March 8. The bill been transmitted to the Senate for consideration by the Labor and Commerce Committee.
SB 15 proposes banning the possession, sale and exchange of electronic smoking devices for individuals under 19 years of age. The prohibition includes component liquid or vapor products, regardless of their tobacco or nicotine content.
I introduced SB 211 as a way of addressing the greying of Alaska’s fishing fleet by creating a system for experienced fishing boat captains to phase themselves into retirement from the industry while helping journeymen fisherman phase into the role of captain. The program would follow a highly structured approach to transferring Limited Entry Permits from one Alaskan to another over time in conjunction with Department of Fish and Game and the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.
SB 211 had its first hearing by the Senate Resources Committee on Monday, March 12.
You can find more information on these bills and my other personal legislation online at: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Member/Detail/30?code=STG#tab7_3.
Tracking the Alaska Legislature
You can follow the work of the Senate on the Internet at: https://www.alaskasenate.org/2018/. The site provides a wealth of information on our efforts and our 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 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.
Thanks to all who have contacted me throughout this session. Your thoughts on the issues coming before us in Juneau is invaluable.
E-mail me anytime at: email@example.com.
My Capitol office can be reached by phone at 1-800-821-4925, and in Juneau at 465-4925. The fax number is 465-3517.
My mailing address is: Senator Gary Stevens, Alaska State Legislature, 120 4th Street, State Capitol, Room 3, Juneau, AK 99801.
Thanks for reading this edition of the Capitol Report. I look forward to sharing more on what’s happening in Juneau in a few weeks.