The final days of the Legislative session are upon us and schedules are being cleared for must-pass or pre-approved legislation, which means there’s also one final chance for outside pressure to get bills across the finish line or altered at the last minute. Here’s what happened on the 112th day of session and what to look forward to.
Nine days left in the 121-day session.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski made a motion on the Senate floor on Monday to discharge House Bill 214, the bill that would rename part of the state’s teen dating violence curriculum after Bree Moore, from the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill was one of a trio of bills that Wielechowski and others forced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the session during the “Mini Mutiny.” It was set to head to the Senate Rules Committee to be scheduled for a vote, but the Senate added an extra referral to the Senate Finance Committee where it’s sat for a month. The committee held one public hearing on the bill.
Monday’s motion would have removed it from the committee with Wielechowski arguing that there’s no real reason for the bill to be in the Senate Finance Committee in the first place.
Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, explained why it had to stay.
“It is not a simple bill, and it is more complex than one might think once you have it in your possession and read it,” she said. “It not only changes the name and attaches a face to an issue, but it clarifies some copyright issues that the judiciary committee (which never heard the bill) was expressing.”
Without going into specifics, she said there’s some sort of concerns about the copyrights on the curriculum being used to teach the dating violence classes and suggested they may not be the best or most appropriate courses. The state’s fiscal note on the bill doesn’t mention these issues or any cost to implement the name change.
The Senate voted 12N-7Y to keep the bill in committee. Republican Sens. Shelley Hughes and Cathy Giessel joined the five minority Democrats to advance the bill from committee. Everyone else in the Senate Majority caucus voted to keep it in committee. Caucus-less Sen. Mike Shower was out on an excused absence.
Initiative buster on Senate floor
House Bill 44, which the Senate rewrote so it would bump the per diem voter initiative off the ballot is on today’ Senate calendar. Rep. Jason Grenn’s bill originally was narrowly focused on the Legislature’s conflict of interest rules, but was expanded to add the Government Accountability Act initiative, which both Grenn and Midnight Sun Publish Jim Lottsfeldt are backing.
The bill did have a referral to the Senate Finance Committee, but that was lifted earlier this session.
Senate advances updated capital budget
The Senate Finance Committee (which was the only finance committee to meet on Monday) unveiled and advanced a revised version of the capital budget that adds in a bunch of smaller projects. Some notable additions include public safety-oriented programs like $75,000 for community watch grants, $2 million for the Anchorage Police Department and $2 million for the Department of Public Safety. The committee also included $750,000 each for the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Revenue for financial due diligence on the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (AKLNG) pipeline project, which comes on the heels of a big announcement for gas supply.
The House Labor and Commerce’s decision to cut the serving sizes for breweries, distilleries and wineries isn’t going over well and it’s kicked one of the state’s most popular breweries into political action. Fairbanks’ HooDoo Brewery has been pretty quiet throughout the process, but a proposal to cut its daily serving limit from 36 ounces (two 18-ounce pints and change) to 24 ounces was a step too far.
“This is an attempt by some of the bars and restaurants in Alaska to cripple our small, family businesses in order to benefit their pocketbooks. A sad state of affairs,” wrote HooDoo owner Bobby Wilken (yes, that Wilken) in a post that’s been shared more than 500 times.
Distilleries and other breweries have already been intensely engaged on the issue, and at this point most are asking that the House simply go with the version passed by the Senate that leaves the serving sizes untouched and the distillery cocktail version unresolved.
The bill is now in the House Finance Committee.
Legislature approves rape kit bill
The Senate-amended version of House Bill 31 passed the House on currence on Monday. The vote clears the way for the bill’s requirements of additional sexual assault training requirements for police officers, improved reporting methods and a report on the state’s rape kit testing backlog to head to the governor’s desk.
The legislation passed the Senate unanimously 20-0, and the House on a 36-1 with three representatives out on excused absences.
Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, was the lone vote against the measure. He did not explain his opposition during the debate.
The Senate Finance Committee’s schedule today is focused on House Bill 331, the bill that seeks to pay off the state’s oil tax credit bill with bonding. It’ll hear invited testimony this morning with public testimony at its 1:30 p.m. meeting.
The House Finance Committee will be taking public testimony at its 1:30 p.m. meeting on the House version of the capital budget. This is likely a move to save some time while the House waits for the capital budget to clear the Senate.
Is the smoke-free workplaces bill, Senate Bill 63, scheduled for a vote in the House?
What we’re reading
- There are some unnerving similarities between the abuse allegedly inflicted on women at the hands of former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to the allegations facing former Rep. Zach Fansler. Read: Four Women Accuse New York’s Attorney General of Physical Abuse via The New Yorker.
- We’ve known for nearly a year that Russia-linked hackers targeted Alaska’s election system in the lead up to the 2016 elections, but we never really got a clear idea of just what that meant. The state said it was superficial, akin to rattling the door knobs, but other reports have conflicted with these findings. A new report reveals a separate, more successful hack that still reportedly stopped short of impacting anything related to the elections. Read: Hackers broke partway into Alaska’s election system in 2016. Officials say no damage was done. via Anchorage Daily News.