“I want to make this perfectly clear. If the Senate thinks we’re going to get out of here with just a POMV, they’ve got another think coming.” This is a quote from House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux at yesterday morning’s press availability. I offer congratulations to the House Majority for sending to the Senate all the pieces for a comprehensive, durable, sustainable fiscal plan. Not willing to rely on the Senate Republican plan of reducing the Permanent Fund dividend, spending more of the Permanent Fund earnings on state government, and making damaging cuts to schools, the university, health care services, the House has passed legislation to also address the unaffordable oil industry subsidies and a statewide income tax. I am eager for the hearings to start and will push for support for their effort.
Sen. Gardner and granddaughter Juliette head to the Senate Floor. Juliette thoroughly enjoyed serving as a guest page for the day.
In the meantime, as we move past the statutory 90-day session and into discussion of a fiscal plan, other bills are moving across the Senate floor. Please note that Senate bills will also have to move through the House. House bills are often modified by the Senate, and will need “reconciliation” so ultimately both bodies pass identical legislation to send to the Governor for signature.
- Senate Bill 45: Exemption to Licensing of Contractors: Individuals building their own homes are not required to have a contractor license. However, construction businesses use this exemption as a loophole to operate without adequate inspections, bonding and insurance. In fact, the Mat-Su Home Building Association estimates that almost one-half of all new construction home sales in the area are from unlicensed builders claiming to be selling homes built for themselves. As a matter of consumer protection, the bill requires a person who builds and sells a home without a contractor license to disclose to the state that they are building without a license, allowing the state to track such construction and close down those operating outside the law.
- House Bill 23: Benefits for Dependents: The need for this legislation became apparent in 2014 with the tragic loss of two Alaska State Troopers in a shooting in Tanana when their family members lost all health insurance coverage within the month of the deaths. There is broad agreement among Alaskans that when peace officers and firefighters die while working for us we should maintain insurance for their families.
- House Bill 108: Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets: It is a dry title for the right to delegate management of our electronic accounts like email, texts, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., in the event of our deaths.
- House Bill 78: Indigenous Peoples Day: Establishes the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. Federally, the second Monday in October is Columbus Day. In our Alaskan context it is fitting that this day should also honor the first people of our state and of the Americas. In 2015 and 2016 Governor Walker proclaimed Indigenous Peoples Day as a one year observance. This bill establishes Indigenous Peoples Day as a yearly event. Indigenous people are an integral part of the spiritual, cultural, linguistic, scientific and historical fabric of the State of Alaska and the Americas at large. As a state we recognize the unique contributions of Indigenous peoples, and of individual Alaska Natives for their role in making the state what it is today.
As we continue to trek past the 90 days, the Senate’s intent is to shut down most committees and only work on essential items, i.e. budget, fiscal plan and priority bills that must be passed this year. The House is keeping all committees open and continuing work as usual. Currently, we don’t know when session will end or what the final package will look like but the House Majority Coalition and the Governor are adamant that the fiscal plan be comprehensive with a broad-based tax. I agree.
I'm Berta and I'm still listening,