Rep. Seaton from the Capitol
Feb. 6, 2012
Greetings from Juneau on this 21st day of the 90-day session. The tough weather has been continuing all over the State and the high Juneau winds caused a number of flight cancellations. I experienced a case of laryngitis toward the end of the week and completely lost my voice by Friday morning. Not knowing if the laryngitis was associated with an infection, I decided to forego the weekend trip to my Dad’s 103rd birthday party and will visit with the family after session. They had a great celebration and the home alone time sure helped my voice start to recover. Needless to say, I am happily anticipating Tina’s return to Juneau on the 9th.
We welcomed Heather Beggs to our staff this week. Heather will be handling the capital budget items and following the State Affairs Committee. Taneeka Hansen did an excellent job filling in for our first few weeks of session.
Last week we welcomed constituents Mark Beals and Stephen Krouse from Bear Creek fire dept. in Seward and Bob Cicciarella from Kachemak emergency services and Sharon Howerton-Clark from Homer.
On Wednesday we heard testimony on HB256 which repeals the provisions relating to the power and duties of the Department of Education and Early Development to intervene in a school district to improve instructional practices. The Education Committee meeting was recessed until later in the day to hear HB145 which would provide state funding in the form of a Parental Scholarship for students in K-12 who want to attend a private school. Although it was called a ‘parental scholarship’ the award was to be paid directly to a private or religious K-12 school, which would maintain the ability to accept or reject individual students on any grounds and not be subject to state regulations. After several amendments were introduced and voted on, HB145 was passed out of committee on a 4 to 3 vote. I voted against passage as discrimination on race, religion, etc are currently prohibited in our Constitution and I believe the supporters should amend the constitution before advancing such a law.
At Friday’s meeting we had a report from Superintendent Scott Butterfield from Chatham School District. We then received information from The Dept. of Law and Legislative Legal about the legal aspects of HB256 as it relates to the recent resolution of Moore vs. State. HB256 would repeal SB285 (passed in the 25th Legislative Session) which implemented and limited state intervention in schools that were not meeting minimum educational standards. SB285 was legislation addressing the Judges’ findings in the Moore vs. State case brought against the State. Ester Cox then gave the first report to the legislature, mandated from the Alaska State Board of Education. We ran out of time so the Alaska Performance Scholarship Outcomes Report will have to be scheduled for another time.
On Monday of this week we will again take up HB256 and hear from Superintendent of the Dillingham School District. Wednesday’s meeting will be a Joint session with the Senate Education Committee and the board of Regents where the University of Alaska will give their annual report to the legislature on teacher preparation, retention, and recruitment. The Committee will also receive a presentation from the Alaska Gateway School District. Friday we will have a joint meeting with House finance EED Subcommittee to discuss Education Funding from School Districts’ of Sitka, Fairbanks, Lake & Peninsula, along with Kodiak.
Health And Social Services
Tuesday we heard HCR20 designating February 2012 as American Heart Month. HCR 20 passed out of committee. The Senate Health and Social Services Committee then joined us and we heard a presentation and testimony from Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska.
Wednesday the Senate and House committees met jointly to hear the Alaska Health Care Commission Report Update and the Department of Health and Social Services Overview. The commission presented on Alaska’s high health care costs in comparison with other states and proposed six solutions, including a focus on prevention.
On Tuesday of this week we will hear Alaska Health Care Commission’s report and update and from the Citizen Review Panel. Thursday brings a presentation from the Alaska Tribal Health Consortium on the topic of Tribal Health Services and collaborations with State Agencies.
State Affairs met on Thursday this past week to discuss HB 260 and HB 287, both of which deal with absentee voting. HB 260, establishing a permanent absentee voting option for qualified voters. We received testimony from a wide range of groups, including the Division of Elections, the postal service, AARP, as well as concerned citizens. Interesting discussion was raised by the testimony which did not relate directly to the action of the bill but brought forward questions regarding current voting practices. The bill was held in committee.
HB 287, extending the absentee voting application procedures available to military and overseas residents to all qualified Alaskan voters, was passed out of committee with two amendments.
This Tuesday State Affairs will hear HB 311, which relates to information procedures for filing with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, and HB 190, relating to expanding allowable absences from the state for purposes of eligibility for permanent fund dividends. Thursday the committee will hear SB 89 relating to legislative ethics and HJR 33 urging the United States Congress and the President of the United States to work to amend the Constitution of the United States to prohibit corporations, unions, and individuals from making unlimited independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates for public office.
Last week we held discussions on HB 276, legislation seeking to incentivize oil and gas production in the Nenana basin through the creation of tax credits in addition to those already on the books. Other regions with potentially productive basins are interested in creating initial exploration incentives as well. This bill is a work in progress. There will be future hearings on the bill in the weeks ahead. HJR 31, a resolution calling on congress to set aside Central Park in New York City as a wilderness area was brought up for discussion and then held by the committee. The intent of the sponsor was to use satire to incite a nationwide discussion on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. HB 298, my legislation exempting sand and gravel operations from liability for the mining license tax was heard by the committee, amended to exempt quarry pit operations, and sent out of committee. It was a tax that cost the public more than it generated in revenue when applied to building materials. It will be heard on Tuesday, February 7th in House Finance. We also heard and held HJR 26 which asks the federal government to establish a management plan for dealing with the booming sea otter population in Southeast Alaska which is causing economic harm to the shellfish industry and subsistence users. An amendment is forthcoming which will retain the restriction on sale of pelts only to other Alaska Natives and seek to broaden the types of the handicraft items that can be made and sold.
This week we will work on HB 9, a bill designed to hasten the construction of an in-state gas line by modifying and increasing the authority of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation. The issue of a small diameter in-state only gas pipeline vs. a large diameter export pipeline with off-take points for in-state usage (as authorized under the AGIA statutes) is controversial and complex. HB 9 will be discussed all week. We will also hear HJR 29 requesting that the Bureau of Land Management to plug “legacy” oil wells in the Arctic.
HB 298 repeals the requirement that sand and gravel and quarry rock operators pay the mining license tax. This tax costs the state nearly as much to administer as it is raises. The Department of Revenue agrees that the mining license tax on sand and gravel operators is burdensome and labels the sand and gravel tax a “nuisance tax.” During the last five years, the Department of Revenue collected between $206,000 and $320,000 annually in mining license tax revenue on sand and gravel operations and spent nearly $150,000 each year to administer the tax. Sand and Gravel businesses often spend more money on the complex and time consuming tax audits than they pay in the tax. The time that state auditors spend on the mining license tax for sand and gravel operations could be better spent on higher value mineral mine audits. Since the majority of this material is used in public works projects, State and local governments end up paying most of the tax through higher material costs. HB 298 was heard in House Resources and amended to exempt quarry rock operations, as quarries are the primary mode of creating rock and gravel products in some regions of Alaska, including Southeast and the Aleutians. HB 298 is scheduled to be heard in House Finance Committee on Tuesday of this week at 1:30 p.m.
HB302 allows greater participation in the Pick-Click-Give program by intermediate sized non-profits that meet all of the eligibility requirements for the program, but cannot participate due to the costly audit requirements. HB302 would repeal audit requirements for entities receiving contribution through this permanent fund dividend program.
Bits and Pieces
Senior Benefits Program
If you are 65 years or older and have a monthly income lower than $1984.00 or married with a monthly income of $2680.00 or less you qualify for up to $250.00 monthly payments from the State of Alaska. Contact SSC for an application via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-528-9488.
Employment opportunity with Alaska Ocean Ranger Program
Crowley Marine, Inc. is taking applications for qualified Alaskans for the 2012 Alaskan Ocean Ranger Program. For more information or to see if you qualify go to Crowley Marine’s website at http://www.crowley.com/Careers/Seagoing-Jobs/Seagoing-Jobs/Ocean-Ranger or contact email@example.com . Deadline to apply is 2/29/2012.
Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation 2012 Volunteer Opportunities
The Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation Volunteer Program Catalogue is now available. Alaska State Parks is looking for next summer’s volunteers and is taking applications for summer and winter positions. The application deadline is April 1. The catalogue is available on the internet at http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/vip/index.htm. For more information please call (907) 269-8708
Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation Internship opportunity
Each year, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) and several of their external investment managers hire Alaskan college students as summer interns. APFC actively promotes these opportunities to students attending school in Alaska.
Recruitment for summer 2012 internships is underway. All program information can be found on the APFC website: http://www.apfc.org. for more information please contact APFC staff, Laura Achee, at (907) 796 1522
Resources, HB85, HB89, HB58, HB60, HB71, HB104, HB123
Budget, State Affairs, HB302
(907) 465 2028
Mary Jane Shows
Education, Health & Social Services, Scheduling, Newsletter contact, Constituent Relations, HB 57, HB224