Today is Day 100.
House Bill 82 advances
The House State Affairs Committee advanced House Bill 82 on a 4-2 vote during Tuesday’s hearing. The legislation would add “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression” to the state’s protected classes list as it relates to anti-discrimination laws on things like hiring, housing, banking and union organization.
The hearing mostly featured public testimony, which was by far in support of the measure, but was marked with some deeply transphobic opposition. At one point, a supporter of the measure apologized to the LGBT community for the hateful things that had been hurled their way.
The bill passed out of committee with Reps. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Zack Fields, Andi Story and Adam Wool, all Democrats, voting in favor of the measure. Minority Republican Reps. Sarah Vance and Laddie Shaw voted against the measure.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, and heads to the House Judiciary Committee next. It does not currently have any predicted impacts on the state budget so it does not have a stop in the House Finance Committee.
The protected class list currently includes race, religion, color, national ancestry, physical or mental disability, age, sex, marital status, changes in marital status, pregnancy, or parenthood. The bill includes a a section that specifically says it doesn’t apply to the employment of a minister by a religious organization.
The measure comes against the backdrop of the city of Fairbanks’ recent passage of an LGBT non-discrimination measure. That measure subsequently vetoed by Mayor Jim Matherly before it went into effect. He opted to put the matter to a public vote in municipality’s fall election, which he will also be on.
Teal says House, Senate budgets hit more budget goals than Dunleavy’s budget
Legislative Finance Division Director David Teal hasn’t been shy in his assessment of the Dunleavy budget, noting that it didn’t even hit many of Dunleavy’s own stated goals when it comes to building a budget.
He reiterated that during Tuesday’s hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee, where he gave an overview of the House’s budget and what it’d mean for Alaska’s financial future. It was particularly interesting when he compared it to the principles Dunleavy said were used to build his budget:
- expenditures cannot exceed existing revenue;
- the budget is built on core functions that impact a majority of Alaskans;
- maintaining and protecting our reserves;
- the budget does not take additional funds from Alaskans through taxes or the PFD;
- it must be sustainable, predictable and affordable.
He noted that the House budget doesn’t have any deficits while the governor’s does, provides more core functions like transportation and education than the governor’s budget and doesn’t spend from savings while the governor’s does, which means, at least in Teal’s eyes, that when it comes to being “sustainable, predictable and affordable:”
“It’s advantage House,” he said, later adding that the still draft version of the Senate’s budget is largely similar to the House when it comes to these issues.
The budgets got high marks from Sen. Natasha von Imhof, the Anchorage Republican who co-chairs the committee.
“I look at this and there’s no new taxes, about $200 million in reductions, no money from savings accounts at all: No SBR, no CBR,” she said.
The one “glaring exception” to that is, of course, that the House budget (as well as the Senate budget) would mean a smaller dividend now and into the future—dipping below $1,000 before settling into about $1,500 to $1,600 in the long-term.
The PFD was the subject of much of the day’s discussion, which is where the Legislature still very much appears to be when it comes to the size of the dividend. While the Senate has put forward a concept of a 50-50 split between state government and the PFD, other ideas floated at the meeting included a 75-25 split, a variable split depending on the budget and a step-down over multiple years.
Von Imhof later noted that the reductions to the PFD acts effectively like taxes because it encourages people to become more directly engaged with the budget. It should be noted that a cut to a PFD also happens to be about the most regressive tax the Legislature could currently consider.
The committee will continue work on the budget at Thursday’s meeting with an update to look at a higher rate of state growth to keep pace with inflation, the possibility of a larger capital budget than the anemic ones currently considered and a look at what the removable of per barrel oil tax credits would do for the budget.
The last one came at the request of Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, over the protests of his Republican colleagues, who said looking at just the cost of the per barrel credit would miss the potential impact on wider behavior with oil development.
House Finance continues with crime
The House Finance Committee’s crime overview week hit a speed bump on Tuesday when Sen. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard echoed the governor’s accusations that the House, which has committed a full week of the House Finance Committee’s time to crime, isn’t taking crime seriously because it hasn’t given the governor’s bills the speedy passage he’s demanded.
The sparring with Rep. Tammie Wilson, the Republican who co-chairs the committee, prompted an early end to the Tuesday morning meeting. The committee heard about two hours of testimony from local law enforcement officials.
The committee also took testimony on House Bill 14, Rep. John Lincoln’s legislation to close a number of loopholes in the state’s sex crime laws, in the afternoon. It’s a similar proposal to the one moving through the Senate, authored by Sen. Peter Micciche. Both target issues raised by the Justin Schneider case.