Title change gives Senate room to maneuver on cruise bill

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A resolution the Senate approved Friday gives senators broad leeway to alter a cruise ship bill passed by the House this week -- and it could set the stage for a battle over a head tax on cruise ship passengers.

The Senate voted unanimously to change the title of House Bill 260, a bill regulating cruise ship pollution.

The House title, nearly a page and a half long, is extremely detailed, specifying the exact amount of an approximately $1 per passenger fee that would be assessed to pay for a pollution monitoring program.

Rep. Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage, said that was done specifically to ward off any attempt to put a larger head tax in the bill. Changing a title once a bill leaves the house where it was sponsored requires a two-thirds vote.

The Senate had no trouble mustering that Friday, passing a title change resolution 20-0.

The new title is very brief and does not refer to a tax. Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, won't say whether that's what he has in mind.

''It gives the Senate a title that we can consider any compromise language we might come up with,'' Halford said.

''It saves the Senate secretary from having to read a page and half,'' he added with a smile.

It is widely known that some members of the Senate -- including Rules Chairwoman Drue Pearce, R-Anchorage, and Halford -- believe the cruise industry should be taxed. Last year, the Senate passed a $50 cruise ship head tax, but the bill died in the House.

Some senators in the Republican majority don't support a tax.

Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, opposes a tax but he voted for the title change.

''The House title was probably beyond fair,'' Kelly said. It was so detailed it would have allowed the Senate little room to make any changes in any part of the bill, which deals primarily with regulating wastewater discharges, air emissions and solid waste handling on the ships, Kelly said.

The bill is scheduled for its first Senate hearing Saturday in the Transportation Committee. It passed the House on Tuesday.

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