May 8 is the last day of session and I want to thank everyone who worked with me and contacted my office concerning state matters. It is a pleasure and an honor to represent the people of the Kenai Peninsula in the Senate. Your comments and feedback are vital to me in making decisions that affect our region. Thank you all very much.
Here is a rundown on the bills I have sponsored this session that benefit the Kenai Peninsula and which committee they are in. Since this is the first session of the 22nd Legislature, bills that are in committee at adjournment will be picked up again when we get back to Juneau in January.
SB 49: No Social Security Number Required on Hunt/Fish License -- Senate Rules
The federal government requires that Social Security numbers be collected on all applications for recreational licenses. SB 49 creates the necessary change in state statutes to take advantage of a three-year exemption to the requirement. The House companion, HB 48, is also in Senate Rules.
SB 59: Federal Funds to Municipalities for Roads -- Senate Finance
This bill establishes a new Municipal Road Projects Program (MRPP) to award up to $20 million in federal funds to municipalities for eligible re-construction or construction projects.
SB 104: Aid to Volunteer Services -- Senate Finance
This measure provides payments to volunteer fire departments and emergency medical service (EMS) organizations that serve populations under 2,500. This bill was held in Finance because it has a large fiscal note. Based on $10 per capita for fire ($486,000) and $10 per capita for EMS ($377,000), SB 104 would cost $863,000. The source of money would be the General Fund and the savings realized from SB 59 could be utilized for this bill.
SB 109: Unincorporated Communities Matching Grants -- Senate Finance
This expands the Unincorporated Community Capital Project Matching Grant Program to include unincorporated communities of 25 people or more within boroughs and unified municipalities. SB 109 has a fiscal note of $1,979,800 and has not yet been heard by committee.
SB 137: Alaska Human Resource Investment Council -- House Finance
This bill extends the Resource Development Board and a Resource Development Fund within the general fund. AVTEC in Seward would receive $1 million under the bill. This bill is expected to pass because it is a part of the funding requirements of both bodies.
SB 140: Small Water-Power Development Projects -- Senate Resources
This creates the necessary state legislation to allow Alaska to take advantage of new federal regulations that allow the transfer of small hydroelectric projects from federal to state oversight. This change would encourage the development of small projects (5,000 kW or less) that are currently inhibited by the high cost of federal licensing. We plan to do more work on SB 140 over the interim.
SB 141: Aquatic Farms for Shellfish -- Senate Resources
This requires the Department of Natural Resources to offer public leases on 60 suspended shellfish sites, 20 clam sites and 10 geoduck sites. These leases are in addition to permits already issued. We plan to do more work on SB 141 over the interim.
SB 142: Lease-Purchase Spring Creek Correctional -- Senate Finance
This measure authorizes a lease-purchase agreement with the City of Seward for the construction of an addition to the Spring Creek Correctional Center for secure classroom facilities and prisoner housing. This bill was introduced prior to the Kenai prison bill, but is now positioned behind it.
SB 148: Remote Water Storage for Fire Departments -- Senate Finance
This bill directs the Department of Natural Resources to build 10,000-gallon underground storage tanks with a pump and a hydrant for fire protection in areas where water is not easily available. The department would solicit applications from organized fire service areas, rank the applications based on several factors, and construct as many tanks as appropriations allow.
SB 164: No Gas Pipeline Over Beaufort Sea -- Awaits Transmittal to Governor
This bill prohibits leases under the Right-of-Way Leasing Act on the state of Alaska's submerged lands in the Beaufort Sea. This would remove the proposed "over-the-top" natural gas pipeline route from consideration. It was co-sponsored by the entire Senate.
SJR 16: Constitutional Amendment on Municipal Annexations -- Senate Community and Regional Affairs
This bill proposes a 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.
I also introduced several measures as Chair of the Senate Resources Committee, including:
SB 143: Right-of-Way Leasing Act: Application Cost House Finance
This authorizes the state of Alaska to be reimbursed for work performed by the State Pipeline Coordinator's Office (SPCO) in preparing to receive and process an application for a gas pipeline right-of-way lease. It also clarifies that an applicant must reimburse the SPCO for costs incurred in processing an application whether or not the application is granted.
SB 158: Report: State Participate in Natural Gas Pipeline -- House Finance
This measure requires the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources to present a comprehensive report, with recommendations, addressing ownership and financing options for the proposed gas pipeline to the legislature and the governor no later than Jan. 31, 2002. The report must also include how participation in the gas pipeline might affect the states cash flow, its credit worthiness, and its ability to continue to pay for essential public services.
SJR 2: Roadless Policy -- Senate Resources
This resolution opposes the inclusion of Alaska's national forests in former President Clinton's Roadless Area Conservation rule and urges Congress and President Bush to overturn it. The companion measure HJR 6 was approved and sent to the governor to forward to Washington, D.C.
SJR 7: Reinstate Wilderness Study Prohibition -- approved by both House and Senate
This resolution urges President Bush to reinstate the federal directive that Bureau of Land Management land in Alaska may not be considered for wilderness reviews in accordance with the "no more clause" of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). This directive was reversed by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt in a last-minute action at the end of President Clinton's administration.
Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, was first elected to the Alaska Senate in 1994. He represents Senate District D.
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