AKLEG Recap, Day 114: Legislature nearing the final sprint of session

(Photo by Matt Buxton)

The Legislature is in the final days of the session, but there are still plenty of pieces to be finalized. Here’s what happened on the Day 114 and what to watch for.

Just seven days left in the 121-day session

Election hearing

The House State Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing this morning on the state of Alaska’s election system, inviting various experts on election security. The announcement comes after the Anchorage Daily News revealed that Alaska’s election system had, in fact, been breached by a lone hacker.

The report doesn’t connect the incident to the Russia-backed hacking effort and suggests that nothing was altered. The hacker took advantage of an unpatched vulnerability in one of the state’s servers. Experts interviewed by the ADN said the undisclosed hack “actually highlights the resilience of Alaska’s multi-layered cyber-defenses.”

The state’s been getting mixed messages about the state of the state’s election system. The state had disclosed that Russia-backed hackers did probe Alaska’s election site but likened it to “robbers rattling door knobs.” Another national report with unnamed sources in the intelligence community suggested Alaska was the victim of a more serious intrusion.

The meeting is set to start at 9 a.m. and can be watched on Gavel Alaska.

Alcohol bill likely dead

Thanks to a bunch of last-minute changes–including one that slashed the serving size limit for distilleries and breweries–has likely killed a far-reaching rewrite of Alaska’s alcohol laws, according to the Juneau Empire. This is pretty much what distillers, brewers and everyone else involved with the bill worried would happen when Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, said the controversial issue of whether or not distilleries should be allowed to mix cocktails in their tasting rooms would be taken up in Senate Bill 76.

SB 76 is the product of careful negotiations between the state, various alcohol interests and other related groups. It’s been driven by Soldotna Sen. Peter Micciche, who said the issue over serving size must be resolved before the end of session.

“If that remains in the bill, I will kill the bill,” Micciche told the Empire.

Senate approves foster care reform

Wednesday marked a significant accomplishment for Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, in his long-running effort to reform and improve the state’s foster care system. The Senate approved his House Bill 151 on a 18-0 vote and the bill makes significant changes to the foster care system that hone in on how caseworkers are trained and how many hours they work.

House rolls out capital budget

The House Finance Committee introduced its updated capital budget on Wednesday night with a slew of changes. There’s no one place to find a rundown of the changes, so from skimming the meeting this morning here’s a few of the significant changes:

  • $3.5 million for the enhanced 911 call center system. This is partial funding for Gov. Bill Walker’s request, which was eliminated altogether by the Senate. The partial funding would turn the project into a phased approach.
  • $18 million for substance abuse disorder treatment expansion. The project is another request by Walker and would be used to expand capacity for treatment of substance abuse disorders by offering grants for organizations to either expand existing facilities or add new facilities.
  • Expanded authorization to receive additional federal dollars for Medicaid. The state is running out of funding for Medicaid providers either by the end of this week or early next week. The state’s hoping to be able to shift money around to access additional federal funds.

Rep. Guttenberg announces retirement

Long-time Fairbanks Democratic Rep. David Guttenberg announced Wednesday night that he would not be seeking re-election this year. He made the announcement via livestream to the Laborers’ Local 942 monthly meeting in Fairbanks, the same place where he got his start in politics more than 20 years ago.

Guttenberg has no plans to endorse a candidate, saying such a move is “rude,” and says he has no swirling controversy hanging over him, adding “I guess you have to say that nowadays.” He said it’s time to step aside, let someone new represent the district and hopefully enjoy a few Fairbanks springs.

He will be missed.

Bree’s Law

With the Legislature in a final sprint to the end of session, pressure is mounting on the Senate to finally pass House Bill 214, which renames part of Alaska’s teen dating violence education law after Bree Moore. Moore was murdered by her boyfriend, and her parents have taken up the cause of raising and spreading awareness of teen dating violence.

The legislation has stalled out in the House. First there was a clash between Butch Moore and Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, that culminated in the “Mini Mutiny.” The bill sits in the Senate Finance Committee now, where Sen. Anna MacKinnon said some sort of copyright issue needs to be worked out.

To put it lightly, the Moore family is not buying this argument and Cindy Moore took their case to Twitter yesterday. (Though we hear it might be on the schedule for Senate Finance, which just has “bills previously heard/scheduled” on today’s calendar).

Is the smoke-free workplaces bill, Senate Bill 63, scheduled for a vote in the House?

No.

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