Capitol Report: 2022 session draws to a close in a few short weeks

Hello from Juneau. With just a few weeks left in the 2022 session, I am continuing to work on getting my personal legislation through the legislative process. One of my bills, SB 45, took a step forward when it passed the Senate on Tuesday, April 19. The goal of the bill is to align state law with federal law by bringing the minimum age to sell or possess tobacco and electronic smoking products (ESPs) from 19 to 21. SB 45 also adds ESPs to the existing wholesale tax structure for other products.

SB 45 has been referred to the House Labor and Commerce Committee, which has already heard and advanced companion legislation, HB 110. The bill then goes to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.

I am expecting a House floor hearing soon for SB 32. The bill calls for the expansion of public high school students’ access to college coursework by providing a way for school districts to partner with the University of Alaska to earn dual high school and college credit.

These dual-credit programs, often referred to as “Middle Colleges” have been successfully operating for many years. In Alaska, several school districts are also now participating or developing middle college programs of their own in collaboration with the University of Alaska.

SB 32 will provide a framework to increase middle college opportunities for students throughout Alaska. The bill does require enrollment in an Alaska public school for participation, with availability to students who have completed the eighth grade. SB 32 requires an annual report to the legislature on student participation, course offerings and the total number of earned credits.

Also awaiting a House floor hearing is SB 33, which will extend the state’s salmon and herring product development tax credit. The bill also adds similar tax credits for value-added processing in the pollock and cod industries.

In 2003, I sponsored the original legislation creating the Alaska Salmon Product Development Tax Credit. This program is credited as being a major factor in the increase in commercial value of Alaska salmon. A later bill extended the salmon tax credits and expanded the program to include tax credits for herring value-added processing.

Please contact my office for more information on these bills, or any other legislation I am sponsoring this session.

You can also access information on any bills and resolutions introduced during the 32nd Alaska Legislature through the Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS) at akleg.gov/basis/Home/BillsandLaws.

The Budget and the 24-Hour Rule

The FY ’23 operating budget bill, HB 281, will be voted on by the full Senate soon. As you may know, there will be differences between the Senate and House versions of HB 281. These differences will be resolved by a conference committee comprised of three members from each body, and then returned to the Senate and House for a final vote at session’s end. After passing the legislature, the bill is sent to the governor for consideration.

Once the budget conference committee is appointed, the work of legislative committees falls under the 24-Hour Rule. This means bills and resolutions may receive a committee hearing with twenty-four hours’ notice, and legislation can move quickly to a floor vote.

A good way to keep track of where bills are in the process is through the Legislative Information Office near you.

  • The Cordova LIO can be reached at (907) 424-5461
  • The Kodiak LIO can be reached at (907) 486-8116
  • The Homer LIO can be reached at (907) 235-7878. 
  • The Kenai LIO can be reached at (907) 283-2030.

Confirmation Hearings

Another major task ahead of the legislature before adjournment is a joint-confirmation hearing to consider the governor’s appointments for Commissioner of the Department of Administration, Paula Vrana; the Commissioner of the Department Commerce, Community and Economic Development, Julie Sande; Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Ryan Anderon; and various boards and commissions. As of this writing, we do not have the date for the session.

Voter Registration

The Alaska Division has set Thursday, May 12th as the deadline to register to vote in the June 11th Special Primary Election for Alaska’s seat in the United States Congress. If you are not already registered to vote, or want to change your voter registration, you can at voterregistration.alaska.gov.

The special election will be conducted by mail. Voters will automatically receive absentee ballots.

Please Keep in Touch

Please let me know your thoughts on the many matters coming before the legislature during the final weeks of session.

Send me emails at: Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov

My Capitol phone numbers are 1-800-821-4925 or 907-465-4925.

Thanks as always to District P’s media for providing me the opportunity to share this information with you, and to you for reading this column.