Legislators keep slow pace

One appropriation measure, 8 resolutions find way through process

Posted: Wednesday, March 09, 2005

More than nine weeks into its first session, the 24th Alaska Legislature has passed just one appropriation measure and eight resolutions and sent them to Gov. Frank Murkowski for his signature.

The only spending measure is Senate Bill 62, which makes supplementary appropriations to the Division of Elections.

Despite the apparent slow pace, at least a few bills sponsored by members of the Kenai Peninsula's legislative delegation appear to be winding their way through the legislative process.

Homer Rep. Paul Seaton's bill proposing early funding for education (HB 20) passed out of the Education Committee last week and was to get a hearing before the House Health, Education and Social Services Committee late Tuesday.

The bill would require the governor to submit to lawmakers an appropriations bill specific to primary and secondary education by the fourth day of the legislative session each year. The Legislature would be required to adopt a schools' spending package by March 5 of each year.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, is a co-sponsor of the education funding measure.

Seaton's House Bill 25, a measure that would serve to return to ports and borough's a larger portion of the fisheries business tax collected in those locations, passed out of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee on Thursday and has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

The measure would apply to fish exported out of state in unprocessed form. Revenues returned to communities would be tied to estimates of what a community would have received had the fish been processed before being exported.

A Seaton measure, HB 24, that would impose a $75 tax on cruise ship passengers awaits action by the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee.

Chenault is the primary sponsor on four bills, but none has made much progress beyond picking up co-sponsors and being assigned to committees for hearings. Those bills include HB 27, which would provide an optional break from municipal property taxes for police officers living in high-crime areas; HB 184, which would ban municipalities from enacting local legislation regulating firearms that is inconsistent with state law; HB 185, which relates to the immunization of post-secondary students against meningitis; and HB 201, which would allow someone with the power of attorney for a member of the armed forces serving outside the United States to apply for an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend on his or her behalf.

Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, is the primary sponsor of two bills. HB 62 would prohibit automated phone calls for political advertisement to phone numbers listed on a "do-not-call" list. It currently sits in the House State Affairs Committee. Meanwhile, HB 178, relating to special motor vehicle registration plates, also awaits action by the State Affairs Committee.

Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak, the Senate Majority Leader, has about a dozen bills and resolutions in the Juneau mill. He has seen two so far make significant advances through the process.

SB 14 passed the House on Thursday but has yet to be sent for the governor's signature. The bill removes a requirement that municipalities hold a costly special election for initiatives and referendums if no regular election occurs within 75 days after certification.

SB 14 gives municipal governments the option of holding a vote at the next regular election, or holding a vote at an already scheduled special election occurring later than 60 days after certification of a petition. Under the bill, municipalities also would be allowed to order special elections if it were determined that doing so would be in the best interest of the public and no regular election was set within 75 days.

Stevens' SB 25, relating to labeling and identification of genetically modified fish and fish products, passed the Senate on Monday and has been sent to the House.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, has one bill on which he is the prime sponsor. SB 55 would instruct the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources to issue a patent for the remaining interest in certain state land to the owner of the agricultural rights to that land.

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