We've passed the halfway mark in this legislative session and I am pleased to have introduced a number of bills that will benefit Kenai Peninsula residents.
The two items that have brought the most comments from residents are Senate Bill 141 regarding shellfish farming, and Senate Joint Resolution 16 concerning annexations.
SB 141 gives a boost to the fledgling mariculture industry in Alaska. Mariculture has proven itself to be a viable and potentially productive industry that will expand the economic base in coastal areas. I think it's important that the state eliminate cumbersome bureaucratic barriers placed on the industry. The state must also make available more sites appropriate for shellfish development. At the same time, officials must protect the interests of established commercial, subsistence and personal use groups.
I think SB 141 is a big step in the right direction -- it boosts the shellfish industry while protecting the rights of others to have access to traditional clamming beaches.
Senate Joint Resolution 16 is a proposed constitutional amendment that gives residents of a proposed annexation more say in the matter. The legislation would require a vote of affected residents when an annexation would increase the annexing community by more than 10 percent in population or 10 percent in land size.
This would allow communities the leeway to annex small nearby areas without additional requirements, yet it protects against wholesale annexation of large tracts of land or large numbers of people.
Here is a partial list of other bills I've introduced that affect the Kenai Peninsula:
n SB 104: Provides payments to volunteer fire departments and emergency medical service organizations that serve areas with a population less than 2,500. These groups tend to receive little or no funding, yet are often the only ones available to respond to vehicle accidents along state highways.
n SB 109: Provides capital matching grants to unincorporated areas with a population of 25 or more. Small communities could use the grants to fund, for instance, the purchase of a new ambulance or the building of small construction projects.
n SB 137: Extends funding for the Alaska Human Resource Investment Council. The Alaska Vocational and Technical Center receives funds from the program to provide technical and vocational training. The purpose of the extension is to allow the educational institutions involved to prepare for an influx of new students into the system.
n SB 142: Approves a lease-purchase agreement with the city of Seward for an addition to the Spring Creek Correctional Center. The new construction would provide needed housing for prisoners and would include classroom space. Many of the state's prisoners are school aged and would benefit from a basic education program in the prison.
n SB 148: Requires the Department of Natural Resources to build remote water storage sites in areas that are not served by a public water supply. These 10,000-gallon water tanks could be used to fight fires in areas infested by spruce bark beetles.
We continue to research a possible gas pipeline for Alaska. My goal as chair of the Senate Resources Committee is for members to learn as much as possible on the pros and cons of a pipeline. It is my hope that when the time comes, the Legislature will make well-informed decisions that serve the best interests of all Alaskans, for now and future generations.
My monthly on-line survey is a great way for you to let me know what you think about current issues in the Legislature. It takes just a few minutes to respond. And you're invited to add any other comments you wish to share with me. To take the survey, go to my web page at: http://www.akrepublicans.org/22ndleg
/torgerson.shtml and click on "Questionnaire."
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Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, was first elected to the Alaska Senate in 1994. He represents Senate District D.
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