AKLEG Recap, Day 85: Smoke-free workplace bill poised to finally pass the Legislature

(Photo by Xin Qiao/Flickr)

Legislators are working like they’ll be done in 90. Here’s what happened and what to look forward to.

Just five days left.

Puff, puff, pass

The smoke-free workplaces bill is finally headed for a vote in the House after advancing out of the House Rules Committee during a Tuesday night meeting. House Rules Committee chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, has held onto the bill for nearly the entire session because she felt that it wasn’t the state’s place to implement a blanket ban on smoking in most businesses throughout Alaska.

At Tuesday’s hearing LeDoux introduced a new version of Senate Bill 63 that makes the following changes:

  • Allows communities to opt out of the ban through a vote in a local election (as opposed to an ordinance by an assembly or city council).
  • Exempts vaping and e-cigarettes from the ban.
  • Completely removes marijuana from the purview of the bill.

The committee rejected on a 3-3 vote three amendments offered by Rep. David Eastman that would have further exempted other businesses, including volunteer-run businesses and sole proprietorships. Both Reps. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, and Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, stiffly opposed every propose change (Claman also noted that a sole proprietorship can be a bar). LeDoux supported all three amendments, along with Rep. Mike Chenault.

LeDoux briefly acknowledged her opposition to the legislation for which she’s faced mounting political pressure and negative attention.

“I’ve got some questions about this entire bill, in fact, but nevertheless in order to extend an olive branch to the people who really want this bill we’re trying to get this bill in a reasonable form so we can get this to the floor,” she said.

The final vote to move the bill was 4-2 with Reps. Louise Stutes and Eastman voting against advancing the bill. Reps. LeDoux, Claman, Reinbold and Chenault voted to advance the bill.

Rep. Sam Kito, D-Juneau, was absent for most of the meeting on Senate Bill 63. He had objected to LeDoux bringing up her own version of a bill that had already cleared much of the legislative process.

Senate Finance advances operating budget

The Senate Finance Committee advanced its operating budget out of committee on Tuesday in a low-profile meeting, which was briefly delayed after minority Democratic Sen. Donny Olson had to attend to a potential medical emergency in the building (everything was fine). The committee didn’t alter the bill in any significant way, and it seems that the budget is being put together with an eye on the pending conference committee between the House and Senate. The bill is already scheduled for today’s Senate floor. Interesting how quickly things happen when there’s just a grand total of six amendments.

Out on a branch

The House Finance Committee held a lengthy hearing on its new oil tax bill, House Bill 411. The bill is almost certainly doomed in the Senate, but we also got word that it’d likely be doomed if it made it to Gov. Bill Walker.

Department of Revenue Commissioner Sheldon Fisher told the committee in no uncertain terms that the administration opposed the bill during Tuesday night’s hearing. The bill is scheduled every night for the rest of the week with invited testimony planned for tonight’s hearing and public testimony at Thursday’s meeting.

Again, it’s likely a doomed bill, but it’s also likely important for the House to make one last push for increased taxes as the Legislature seems destined to finish the session with a budget that relies only on the permanent fund for additional revenue.

98 of 99

Legislators approved all but one of the 99 appointments considered at Tuesday’s quick joint confirmation session. The one appointment was rejected because, let’s be honest, she once worked for Planned Parenthood, but you wouldn’t have known that from the debate.

Another stumble for Senate Judiciary

The Senate Judiciary Committee was set to get back to regular business after the “Mini Mutiny” was brought to a puzzling end when the three bills in questions were just bumped from committee.

The committee had hoped to take up Sen. Donny Olson’s Senate Joint Resolution 14 that would amend the Alaska Constitution to allow for parental notification for abortions, but that was sidelined due to a problem with a new version of the bill.

Instead, the committee took up Rep. David Guttenberg’s House Joint Resolution 21, which would tell the feds to respect the state’s voter-approved marijuana laws and business. At the conclusion of the hearing, Coghill acknowledged that he and Guttenberg disagree on the policy but said he plans to bring HJR 21 up and send it to the Senate floor for a vote by the end of session.

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