State lawmakers are getting ready for the opening of the 25th Legislature on Jan. 16 by pre-filing a number of bills on various issues, including several sponsored by the Kenai Peninsula’s delegation.
They covered a range of matters, including ethics reform, fisheries, landowner immunity from certain suits, special elections to resolve tie votes, transferable tax credits, school funding and mixing zones.
Here is a quick look at these pieces of legislation.
· House Bill 10 is a bipartisan bill (Rep. Paul Seaton is a sponsor) that would prohibit lawmakers and certain former lawmakers from accepting compensation for work associated with legislative, administrative or political action, and adding new disclosure requirements.
· House Bill 15, (Seaton) would enable members of the Board of Fisheries to participate in the issues that come before the board even if those members had personal or financial interest in those issues by virtue of their participation in a fishery.
· House Bill 16 (Seaton) would delay the effective date for the repeal of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission’s authority to maintain the vessel-based commercial fisheries limited entry systems for the Bering Sea Korean hair crab and weathervane scallop fisheries, and the date of conforming amendments related to the repeal of those systems.
· House Bill 25 (Seaton) would shield certain landowners willing to open their private property to recreational users without charge from liability and lawsuit if a user is injured. It would not apply where a fee was charged.
· House Bill 26 (Seaton) is a bill relating to geoduck aquatic farming and to geoduck seed transfers between certain hatcheries and aquatic farms.
· House Bill 32 (Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, and Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau) would require a special election to resolve tie votes for the offices of state senator and state representative.
· House Bill 46 (Olson) would extend the termination date for the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.
· House Bill 48 (Seaton and Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks) would amend the powers of the board of trustees of the Alaska Retirement Management Board to authorize purchase and sale of transferable tax credit certificates issued in conjunction with the production tax on oil and gas.
· House Bill 72, (Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski) would change the area cost-differential factors that help determine the level of state funding for public education. Using Anchorage as the basis (1.0), the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s current cost factor of 1.046 would become 1.171 under the bill, thus potentially providing greater funding to the district.
· House Bill 74 (Seaton) would prohibit mixing zones in freshwater spawning areas. This has to do with the release of pollutants into waterways.
· Senate Bill 13 (Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak) would prohibit a lawmaker form providing consulting services to a person in the private sector or agreeing to accept consulting fees from a person in the private sector.
Another bill of interest to the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and likely every other municipality in the state, is House Bill 60, sponsored by Rep. Vic Kohring. This measure would up the real property tax exemption given by the state on the first $150,000 of value to as much as $250,000 for certain property owners seniors and vets with a somewhat smaller increase for certain others depending on age and income.
The measure, however, contains no provision for the state to reimburse municipalities for the loss of property tax revenues. When the state instituted the $150,000 exemption in the 1980s, it did reimburse municipal governments. But in the late 1990s, as a cost-cutting measure at the state level, that practice ceased.
“It’s another example of an unfunded mandate from the state and a growing shifting of the tax burden from a minority to a majority of borough taxpayers,” said Bill Popp, special assistant to Mayor John Williams.
According to borough data, in 1986 the exemption viewed as a way to help and honor the state’s aging pioneers cost the Kenai Peninsula Borough roughly $131,000. The total revenue impact to the borough caused by the state’s mandatory exemption in 2006 was just over $2 million. Upping the exemption without compensation would drive that annual loss even higher.
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