AKLEG Recap, Day 8: Smoke-free workplace bill could be snuffed out

(Photo by Dennis Hill/Flickr Creative Commons)

The eighth day of the 2018 legislative session is in the books, and we’re reminded just how influential key legislators can be because it turns out the smoke-free workplace bill isn’t a surefire bet. Meanwhile, both the House and Senate finance committees had what seemed like breakthroughs on Alaska’s budget realities, which are happening about four years too late, but at least they’re happening.

Here’s what happened and what to look forward to.

Just 82 days (plus the Legislature’s charisma points + 6d20 days) to go.

The 50-50 failure of the Permanent Fund

The stress test performed by the Alaska Permanent Fund on a proposed draws to pay for  It rankled senators in the Senate Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, where the legislators spent most of the meeting challenging the report, feeling that it didn’t accurately reflect the current draw being considered by the Legislature. One of the key things they felt the plan overlooked was Senate Bill 26’s requirement to review the draw every three years.

Taken together, it appears that legislators feel the existence of the report and its shocking claim of a 50 percent failure rate over the next decade is an argument against doing a draw altogether (which would seriously hamper the whole anti-tax discussion), but a frustrated Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation CEO Angela Rodell had to explain that’s not the intention.

“I don’t have an answer for you as to what is the best way forward on this,” she said. “this analysis is simply designed to tell you what could happen if we have a really wretched set of market circumstances because we know that markets go down. We know that. History tells us that we will hit a point at which the market is going to go down. This is just pointing out what could happen if, all things being equal, and we don’t change the target asset allocation.”

The exasperated response seemed to snap a few of the legislators to their senses, but time will tell if any of the lessons make a difference if and when a Senate Bill 26 conference committee meeting is ever held.

Not so fast on the smoking ban

The House Judiciary Committee plans on advancing Sen. Peter Micciche’s smoke-free workplace bill, Senate Bill 63, from committee today. The bill has a mountain of momentum–20 co-sponsors in the House–making this the year it could finally pass. There’s just one problem, though. Though the House Judiciary Committee is the final committee of referral for the bill, it still needs to make a stop in the House Rules Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who’s opposed previous incarnations of the bill. The smoke-free workplace bill Micciche carried during the 2015-2016 session languished in the House Judiciary Committee, which was chaired by LeDoux.

Current House Judiciary Committee Chair Matt Claman highlighted progress on the bill during the House Majority Coalition news conference on Tuesday, but conceded it’s not a surefire success.

“I don’t expect a House Rules Committee meeting, but the House Rules is where it would be decided to put it on the floor,” he said. “My general sense is that Rep. LeDoux is not very motivated to put it on the floor.”

That motivation could come from a heavy lobbying effort by advocates for a smoke-free workplace, and if that fails the House could override LeDoux and yank the bill out of committee, a grave snub but not unheard of in recent years.

Additional names for HD 40

After it came out last week that Gov. Bill Walker and House Democrats were unhappy with the candidates put forward to fill the vacancy in House District 40, Walker is interviewing two additional candidates for the position. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Walker’s talked with Nana Regional Corp. executive John Lincoln and will be interviewing Abel Hopson-Suvlu, who’s worked for the Arctic Slope Native Association. Both names were put forward as additional names by the House District 40 Democrats.

The dissatisfaction with the original candidates was highlighted in a story published by the Alaska Landmine that detailed what can charitably be described as a “messy dispute” between two of them.

The deadline for Walker to make the appointment is this week.

Contraceptive hearing

The House Health and Social Services Committee heard additional testimony on House Bill 25 on Tuesday, a somewhat unusual move given the bill is currently in the House Rules Committee (we weren’t able to listen in). At its core, the bill would require health care insurers, including Medicaid, to cover up to 12 months of birth control contraceptives at a time. The original pitch for the bill was that it would help reduce unwanted pregnancies, and Tuesday’s hearing extended that pitch to include a way to combat domestic violence.

“I’ve been hearing more and more about what the bill also involves, which is contraceptive coercion. … I’m hearing more and more from folks that people who are perpetrating domestic violence are using access to birth control as a way to facilitate that very coercive and violent environment,” said HB25 sponsor Rep. Matt Claman at the House Majority’s news conference. “This for me is a change in looking at legislation that I introduced, about another feature of it that highlights how important this particular legislation is about a safer Alaska.”

What we’re reading

  • In an incredibly frustrating, but not all that surprising move, the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday to ban the serving of mixed drinks by distilleries. Distilleries will still be able to serve liquor and mixers, just not together and that’ll be up to consumers to mix on-site, which is apparently just what the Legislature intended (they didn’t).  There’s legislation filed to set this straight, but we’ll see just how much push back it gets from the rest of the alcohol industry. Read: Cocktailspin: Alcohol board votes 3-1 to stop distilleries from serving mixed via Juneau Empire.
  • The Anchorage Assembly has placed the $1 billion sale of its utility  Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric on the April ballot. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says rates and taxes wouldn’t change, and employees won’t be laid off if the deal goes through. Read: ML&P sale to go before Anchorage voters in April via Anchorage Daily News.
  • Legislators apparently couldn’t care less how people do things in the Lower 48, but this is still a pretty interesting example. Oregon voters in Tuesday voting approved a tax on Oregon’s largest hospitals and health insurance policies that will generate between $210 and $320 million a year, which will be used to net an extra $630 million to $960 million in federal funds for Medicaid. The vote passed 61 percent to 39 percent, and the campaign was largely funded by the hospitals that will benefit from the extra money. The kicker: “The passage of Measure 101 also will free lawmakers to spend their upcoming six-week session considering major policy changes, such as whether to adopt a statewide carbon cap and pricing scheme, instead of seeking a workable patch to the Medicaid system.” Read: Oregon voters overwhelmingly pass health care taxes via The Oregonian.

What’s in store for Day Nine

  • 8 a.m. HFin Subcommittee on Education and Early Development – Department overview
  • 8 a.m. Senate Education – SB 131, education budgeting by Sen. Stevens
  • 9 am. Senate Finance – SB 143, Mental Health budget overview; Alaska Gasline Development Corp.
  • 10:30 a.m. House Floor
  • 11 a.m. Senate Floor – HB 186, food donations by Rep. Talerico
  • 1 p.m. House Judiciary – SB 63 smoke-free workplaces by Sen. Micciche; HB 216 criminal restitution by Rep. Kopp
  • 1 p.m. House Resources – Update on AKLNG by Alaska Gasline Development Corp.
  • 1:30 p.m. House Finance – HB 286, operating budget; HB 285, mental health budget
  • 1:30 p.m. Senate Health and Social Services: HB 43, new drugs for the terminally ill by Rep. Grenn
  • 3:15 p.m. House Labor and Commerce – Overview of the departments of Labor and Workforce Development, and Commerce, Community and Economic Development
  • 3:30 p.m. Senate Resources – Alaska’s Oil and Gas Royalty, utilization process
  • 5:30 p.m. HFIN Subcommittee on Revenue – Department overview

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