AKLEG Recap, Day 91: House clamps down on new bills

House Finance Committee co-chairs Paul Seaton and Neal Foster listen during a meeting. (House Majority Coalition photo)

The 91st day of the Legislative session was a lot like every day of the 90-day session: non-critical bills were heard, non-critical bills were passed and everyone talked about hurrying up. Here’s what happened and what to look forward to.

Just 30 days remain in the 121-day session.

No more House bills

House Finance Committee co-chair Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, announced at the end of Monday’s meeting that the committee would no longer be hearing any new House bills. From here on out, he said, the committee would only take up House bills it has already heard or Senate bills.

The committee, as of this morning, has 47 House bills in its possession (not counting special session bills or bills that were moved out yesterday) and we count 24 that have been previously heard or scheduled, according to the Legislature’s website. A handful of those bills are covered by Senate bills already in the House Finance Committee’s hands, which will have a shorter path to passage.

Some of the notable bills on that list include:

  • HB 411, the House’s oil tax proposal that’s been panned by the industry, the Senate and Gov. Bill Walker’s administration.
  • HB 282, Walker’s proposed capital budget that’s contingent on a tax being passed.
  • HB 277, Rep. Scott Kawasaki’s proposal to implement net neutrality in Alaska statute.
  • HB 164, Walker’s bill to implement additional protections for vulnerable adult.

The remaining bills have never been heard or scheduled for a hearing in the House Finance Committee. Some of the bills in that list include:

  • HB 281, Walker’s employment tax.
  • HB 331, Walker’s tax credit financing bill.
  • HB 341, Walker’s repeal of Alaska’s athletic commission that oversees boxing and wrestling.

These rules, obviously, could be broken under extenuating circumstances, but are a signal that the House doesn’t want to settle into the normal routine for these extra 31 days of session.

PFD raffle bill advances

Sen. Click Bishop’s proposal to implement a state-sanctioned raffle to fund education advanced out of the House Finance Committee on Monday. Senate Bill 78 would allow eligible recipients of the PFD to buy $100 tickets into the education raffle. Half of the proceeds would directly to fund education, another quarter would go to the education endowment fund and the remaining quarter would go to a prize pool (capped at $500,000).

It faced opposition in committee from Reps. Jason Grenn and David Guttenberg, both who were concerned the program would create competition with the non-profits that rely on the Pick Click Give charitable giving program that’s part of the dividend application.

“This is a gaming bill disguised as a government funding bill,” Guttenberg said. “That’s all it is.”

The bill eventually advanced from committee after an amendment that directs the program to pay back about $45,000 in seed money to set up and advertise the program out of its income.

The bill now heads to the House Rules Committee, where it could–or might not–get scheduled for a vote on the House floor.

House Finance settles digital license ‘issue’

The House Finance Committee has spent most of its attention on House Bill 260, a bill that among other things would allow people to carry digital versions of their hunting and fishing licenses, wondering what would happen if an officer checking a person’s phone accidentally drops or damages the phone.

That was resolved with an amendment that would allow the officer to be held liable for civil damages if a person can prove the officer intentionally damaged the phone.

The bill was then advanced out of committee.

House passes three House bills …

The House approved three House bills on Monday: House Bill 219, dealing with criminal background checks for state employees who handle federal tax information and additional protections for federal tax information; House Bill 315, confidentiality of certain animal and crop records (described by Rep. Tarr as “HIPPA for Horses”); and House bill 403, which updates the state’s life and health insurance laws to meet federal standards.

Meanwhile, the Senate held a technical session on Monday with Senate Majority Leader Sen. Peter Micciche filling in as Senate President for Sen. Pete Kelly.

… and the Senate’s Patriots Day bill

The House also passed a bill naming Sept. 11 as Patriot Day, bringing resolution to the fake news fight over Gov. Bill Walker’s declaration of “September 11th Commemoration Day” last year (just as every governor did before him). The bill also names June 27 as Post-Traumatic Stress Injury Awareness Day, an addition by the House that the Senate will need to sign off on.

The House also refused an effort by Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, to tack on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day to the bill. The House tabled an amendment as out of order, but Eastman spoke to the issue during the floor debate where he recalled being in New York (about an hour away for military training) on Sept. 11 and lamented that the death tolls don’t include the unborn lives lost in the attacks.

The bill, without Eastman’s amendment, passed 40-0. It now heads back to the Senate for concurrence.

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