Legislature adjournment end of road for many bills

Posted: Monday, May 17, 2004

JUNEAU Dancers will keep stripping at clubs without any new state regulations or protections. And gamblers still can't roll the dice legally in Alaska.

Bills that would have changed the rules on those and hundreds of other issues died at midnight Tuesday when the Legislature adjourned.

More than 700 of the 1,100 bills and resolutions legislators proposed during the last two years perished. That's not unusual, said House Speaker Pete Kott, R-Eagle River.

''It's easier to stop legislation than it is to move it through the system because there's so many hurdles that you have to overcome,'' Kott said. ''It seems like the further you go along, the bar gets higher.''

Kott supported the bill to allow a casino in Anchorage. The House Finance Committee introduced the measure, which narrowly passed the House, but it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

''It didn't have any votes to pass out of my committee,'' said Judiciary Chair Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks.

The senators thought the social costs of gambling were too high and worried that letting one casino open in Anchorage could lead to more casinos opening on Indian lands in Alaska, Seekins said.

A bill aimed at protecting under-21-year-old strip club dancers also passed the House but arrived late in the session in the Senate Finance Committee and died there.

Medical doctors won one battle and lost another this year. A bill that would have limited the amount of money injured patients could receive for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits did not pass.

The Alaska State Medical Association supported that bill, saying it could help ease a physician shortage in Alaska. But opponents said it could bar some severely injured patients from the courtroom.

Kott pulled the bill off the House floor after a flurry of opposition arose, and it never emerged again.

The medical association opposed a bill to let naturopaths prescribe medicine, and largely won that battle, at least for this year.

The version of the bill that ultimately passed does no more than set up a task force of doctors, pharmacists, naturopaths and others to study the issue.

Seekins, who sponsored the bill, said that's fine.

''We'll probably come out with an even better bill next year as a result,'' he said.

''I'm a patient person. If it means we've got to take a little more time to get everyone on board to make them feel comfortable with each other, I'm very willing to do that.''

Legislation to eliminate union protection for state employees who work as managers or in personnel management did not make it through its first committee in either the House or the Senate.

The Senate State Affairs Committee buried it after being bombarded with hours of opposition testimony.

Gov. Frank Murkowski introduced a bill to cut in half the amount of time a person can spend trying to influence legislators or state officials without having to register as a lobbyist. It didn't get a hearing in either the House or the Senate.

Lawmakers let a slew of tax bills die, including a sales tax, an income tax, a cruise ship head tax, an employment head tax, a tourism marketing tax and changes in corporate income and oil industry taxes.

A hike in the tax on cigarettes came close to passing, but it failed in the final minutes of the session.

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