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First Session of 30th Alaska State Legislature

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Alaska State Legislature, House District 31
From the Desk of Representative Seaton:

March 13, 2017 Vol. 217


Greetings from Juneau this 56th day of session.  It was a long week for the House Finance Committee, and we are preparing for another long week of floor sessions.  In Finance we spent 20 hours considering 330 amendments to the operating budget.  Many of the amendments would have taken certain parts of the budget back to FY16 levels without accurately taking into account other changes or reductions the departments already made to other parts of their budget.  Agencies have the authority to move money between line items in an allocation and between allocations in an appropriation.  The agencies need to be able to respond to what actually happens during the year.  Over 100 of the amendments proposed by a member of the minority attempted to say: if you had reduced money spent on personal services and transferred it to another line item to respond to an emergency replacement of, say, a computer server, then the FY18 budget should be reduced on the personal services line because the agency was able to function at that level of funding on an emergency basis.  If these amendments had passed, they would have effectively been unallocated cuts to services in health, education, and public safety without clear direction from the legislature on how the departments should prioritize among those reduced services. 
 
Another 38 amendments from minority members dealt with premium pay for state employees.  Premium pay is an essential part of agencies that operate 24/7 and includes: Hazard Pay, Lead Pay, On-Call Pay, Recall Pay, Sea Duty Pay, and Standby Pay.  Premium pay is negotiated in union contracts and is used by Public Safety, Corrections, Health & Social Services, Transportation, the Alaska Marine Highway System, and other departments. If the Finance Committee had adopted the amendments that reduced or removed premium pay, the departments would still need to pay “premium pay” when conditions warrant. However, in order to do that, they would have then needed to remove funding from other line items, and most likely reduce positions. So the amendments to reduce premium pay would not have resulted in the reduction that was intended.
 
Here is just one example of how premium pay is used. Amendment HSS 85 would have reduced premium pay for the State Medical Examiner (SME). The SME is on call for on-site investigations. This can include multiple vehicle accidents, homicides, or deadly events occurring on the same night. This office must be available 24/7 to respond to their duties. If this amendment would have passed, the office would need to delete other positions so they could continue to have Premium Pay funds available for these 24/7 responsibilities. This is just one example of why premium pay is a necessity for certain agencies.
 
The House Majority Coalition remains committed to protecting essential education, health, and safety services; the budget that moved from committee forward funds education for 2018, including full funding for pupil transportation, protects important programs like Child Nutrition, Head Start, Online with Libraries (OWL), and maintains the existing level of State Troopers and VPSO.  The operating budget will be on the House floor starting today.  I suspect many of the amendments that failed will be offered again on the floor and will lead to hours of debate.
 
I am ready to get back to work on the four pillars of the House Majority’s comprehensive sustainable fiscal plan.  During past meetings we have heard a lot of supportive and constructive public comments on HB 115, the State Revenue Restructuring Act.  In response to those comments and to testimony the committee has heard, this week we will be taking amendments to the sections that deal with the structured payout from the Earnings Reserve.  Adopting these amendments before we move on to the income tax section of the bill should help keep things simple and easier to follow.  I also expect the committee will soon take up HB 111, oil and gas taxes and credits, which is currently in House Resources. 
 
Last week I enjoyed visiting with two Kenai Peninsula constituents.  Homer High School senior, Juan Sarmiento, was in town competing in the Poetry Out Loud competition for the second time.  On my Facebook page we posted a video of Juan at the competition.  I met with Juan before he flew back home and was impressed with his maturity and support for the arts.  Also in town last week was Paul Banks principal, Eric Pederson, who gave me an update on their Preludes Violin Class.  Eric brought us some treats from Two Sisters and we sent him home with a bag full of legislative pins to share with his students.  My staff and I thought this was a great trade!
 
Weekly Survey
 
Please take a few minutes and answer two short questions in my weekly survey.  For the results from last week’s survey click here.  The weekly survey link and results will also be available on my webpage AkHouse.org/rep_seaton .

 

Paul Banks principal, Eric Pederson, and I had a great talk on the importance of early childhood education.  I enjoyed hearing an update on the Preludes Violin Class which I was pleased to observe last fall when I was back in the District.
 

 

House Finance Committee

Mon. - Fri. 1:30-3:30pm
 

On Monday of last week the committee heard HB 49, Extend the Board of Direct Entry Midwives; HB 56, Commercial Fishing Loans, HB 81, Alaska Energy Efficiency Loans, and HB 106, Civil Legal Services Fund.  There was a lot of discussion on HB 49.  The board serves a public purpose, but there are currently only 54 licensees under the board and because there are so few of them their license fees have increased to almost $4000 per licensee to cover the cost of a few investigations and an update to their regulations.  The committee had in-depth discussion on how the costs for professional licensing boards might be better allocated so that this sort of fee increase does not occur.  Since professional boards are required by law to cover all their costs through fees it will take a statute change to improve the situation, but one possible solution is in HB 90 which will be heard this week.
 
HB 56 and HB 81 both make certain types of state loans more available but do not require additional state investment.  HB 56 increases the limit of how large of a loan someone may take from the commercial fishing revolving loan program from $300,000 to $400,000, and HB 81 expands the list of entities who are qualified to get an energy efficiency loan from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.  Both bills will be up again this Thursday. 
 
HB 106, Civil Legal Services Fund, would allow the legislature to appropriate up to 25% of court filing fees to the civil legal defense fund, which is intended to help support organizations that provide civil legal services to low–income individuals.  Currently, statute says the legislature may use civil punitive damage awards for this fund, but those awards have never been as high as expected (only $20,000 over the last four fiscal years).  Nearly every state has a mechanism to fund this sort of civil legal aid.  Although this is an important fund, until we have a sustainable fiscal plan we must be careful of assigning additional general funds to any item.  However the sponsor reminded the committee that the appropriation was optional, allowing the legislature to put up to 25% of court fees into the fund, and that he expected this may not happen this year but would provide a possible funding source for future years.  HB 106 will be heard again on Thursday.
 
The remainder of the week was spent on operating budget amendments.  Of the 330 amendments that were debated in the Finance Committee, 18 passed the committee.  An amendment to restore School Debt Reimbursement was passed by the majority members ($48.7 million).  This action was a result of the public testimony received from school districts and municipalities across the state. Similarly the deposit into the Regional Education Attendance Areas (REAA Fund) was also restored ($17 million). Another approved amendment will add $1.2 million one-time funding for Pre-K funding.  A minority amendment by Rep. Thompson was approved that will add two investment officers in the Treasury Division of the Department of Revenue.  This will save the state about $15 million annually in outside management fees.  An amendment was also approved that will add funding to the Alaska Marine Highway System to increase the service level ($2.1 million).  Other smaller amendments and several intent language items were also passed.
 
Today, Monday, the committee will be hearing four new bills, although the timing of all committee meetings will be subject to change depending on how long floor sessions last.  HB 31, Sexual Assault Examination Kits, mandates that all sexual assault kits in Alaska be tested within 18 months of being collected and also creates an inventory of all untested kits.  There are currently around 3,600 untested kits in Alaska.  HB 90, Occupational Licensing Fees; Investigation Costs, spreads professional licensing investigation costs across all boards, instead of tying the cost of each investigation to the specific board to which it is connected.  Professional boards are required by statute to pay for all board costs through license fees, and one investigation can cost up to $100,000.  This doesn’t matter much for big boards, but as the committee discussed last week when you have a board like the direct entry midwives that has under 100 licensees, that one investigation will cause a very dramatic spike in their licensing fees.  Averaging the cost across all boards could stabilize these fee spikes.  I look forward to committee discussion on this bill. 
 
SB 30, Approval, Royalty Oil Sale to Petro Star, approves the sale of oil to Petro Star refinery.  The state receives some of its North Slope royalty as “in-kind”, which means oil that the state is then able to sell; this bill is a standard part of that process.  Finally, the committee will hear HB 6, Jonesville Public Use Area, which creates a public use area in Sutton in an attempt to control the unofficial trash dump and “wild west” shooting range in that MatSu location.
 
Tuesday the committee will resume work on HB 115, the State Revenue Restructuring Act, with consideration of amendments to the sections of the bill which deal with the structured use of the Permanent Fund earnings.  As noted in my intro, we received many constructive public comments and insightful testimony on HB 115 and are working to incorporate these comments into both the Permanent Fund section of the bill and the income tax section of the bill.  By taking the amendments to the Permanent Fund sections first, the committee hopes to keep things simple and easier to follow.  I look forward to continued work on this important fiscal plan. 
 
Wednesday the committee may hear bills previously heard, such as the bills that are scheduled for Monday, but there is a chance the meeting will be delayed or cancelled due to floor sessions going long.  Thursday the committee will continue hearing HB 56, HB 81, and HB 106, which were all heard last week.  We will also have a first hearing on HB 141, Alaska Workforce Investment Board & Funds.  This reauthorizes the formula used to distribute the Alaska Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP) funds.  Without the formula the funds would just sit in the TVEP account, unused.  On Friday the committee will continue hearing SB 30 as well as HB 115, the State Revenue Restructuring Act.
 

 


House Finance’s Schedule for the Week of March 13, 2017:
Mon. – Fri. 1:30 – 3:30pm unless otherwise noted
 
Monday, March 13, 2017                             
HB 31 - SEXUAL ASSAULT EXAMINATION KITS
HB 90 - OCC. LICENSING FEES; INVESTIGATION COSTS
SB 30 - APPROVAL: ROYALTY OIL SALE TO PETRO STAR
HB 6 - JONESVILLE PUBLIC USE AREA
 
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Tuesday, March 14, 2017  8:30-10:30 AM
HB 115 - INCOME TAX; PFD CREDIT; PERM FUND INCOME
 
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Wednesday, March 15, 2017                        
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Thursday, March 16, 2017                           
HB 56 - COMMERCIAL FISHING LOANS
HB 81 - AK ENERGY EFFICIENCY LOANS: ELIGIBILITY
HB 106 - CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES FUND
HB 141 - AK WORKFORCE INVESTMENT BOARD; FUNDS (Pending referral)
 
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Friday, March 17, 2017                                
SB 30 - APPROVAL: ROYALTY OIL SALE TO PETRO STAR
HB 115 - INCOME TAX; PFD CREDIT; PERM FUND INCOME
 
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 

 

I enjoyed meeting with Homer High School senior, Juan Sarmiento, who was in town for the Poetry Out Loud competition.
 

FY18 Budget & District 31 
 
My staff has prepared a summary of the FY18 operating budget that was adopted and passed out of the House Finance committee last Friday.  The summary includes the amendments adopted last week in committee and highlights those programs and services that people from District 31 have called to check on with my office.  If you need more information or are not seeing a program that you are interested in, please contact Amber in the Homer LIO, Mary in the Kenai LIO or Jenny in my office to assist you. 
 
Senate Finance started closing out their subcommittees for the operating budget last week.  My staff has also prepared a summary of the Senate Finance Subcommittee changes to the FY18 operating budget, again highlighting programs and services that constituents inquire about.  The Senate Finance committee will be taking public testimony on their version of the operating budget Wednesday and Thursday this week:  Homer LIO is Thursday from 1-2pm and Kenai LIO is Thursday from 5-6pm.  For those that cannot get to an LIO, the statewide Offnet time is Thursday 2-3:30pm.  For more information on public testimony please contact the Homer LIO 235-7878 or the Kenai LIO 283-2030.  You can also email testimony to:  Finance.Committee@akleg.gov  I expect Senate Finance to pass out their version of the operating budget from the committee on Friday and it would be on the Senate Floor the following week.

 
Rep. Drummond, Chair House Education committee, and I discussing the operating budget and the importance of core services such as public safety, transportation, health, and education during the press conference last week.
 
 

Legislative Budget & Audit Committee

Meets as needed throughout the year.

Last week the committee met to extend our oil/gas tax credit consultant’s contract by an additional $65,000, as needed through June 30, 2017.  I supported this extension because the consultant, Castle Gap Advisors, has extensive experience in oil/gas tax credits, which our other two consultants do not.  Castle Gap Advisors will be able to provide both House/Senate Resources and House/Senate Finance committees with valuable information and education as we work on HB111 OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX;PAYMENTS;CREDITS.  There is no meeting planned for this week.


Other Committees

For more information on what is happening in other committees, please go to the Committee Chair’s newsletters which are linked here and also  located on the  Alaska House Majority Coalition webpage:  AkHouse.org.
 

Rep. Paul Seaton

Thanks for signing up for my newsletter and engaging in the public process. I try every week to keep you abreast of issues and bills discussed at the committee level, where YOU have an opportunity to participate.




 

Public Testimony Opportunities
In addition to those already noted above.
Contact the Homer or Kenai LIOs noted below for more information.

Monday: 03/13
9am  Senate Finance
SB63: Regulation of Smoking
 
1pm  House Resources
HB87: Conflict of Interest, Board of Fish/Board of Game
HJR12: Opposing Genetically Engineered Salmon
HB32: Label Genetically Modified Food
 
1:30pm  Senate Health & Social Services
SB53: Insurance Coverage for Contraceptives
 
3:30pm Senate Resources
Board of Fish Appointees: Fritz Johnson | Reed Morisky | John Jensen
 
Tuesday: 03/14
1pm House Military & Veterans’ Affairs
HB152: Organized Militia; AK Defense Force
 
3pm House Health & Social Services
HB54: Voluntary Termination of Life
 
3pm House State Affairs
HB82: Restricted Off Hwy Driver’s License
HB112: Sexual Assault by Peace Officers
 
Wednesday: 03/15
3:30pm Senate Resources
Big Game Commercial Services Board: Thomas Atkins | Tom Sullivan
 
6pm House Resources
HB172: Industrial Hemp Production Licenses
HB46: Procurement AK Fish/Ag Products, AK Grown
      *If no participation in Homer LIO, office will close early
 
Thursday: 03/16
10am House Fisheries
HJR9: Canadian Mines on Transboundary Rivers
 
1pm Senate Finance
SB22 & SB24: Operating Budget and Mental Health Budget
  • Homer LIO is Thursday from 1-2pm
  • Kenai LIO is Thursday from 5-6pm. 
  • For those that cannot get to an LIO, the statewide Offnet time is Thursday 2-3:30pm.   
1:30pm Senate Labor and Commerce
SB71: Commercial Fishing Loans
 
Friday: 03/17
1pm House Resources
HB19: Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides
 
3:15pm House Labor & Commerce
HB132: Transportation Network Companies (Uber)
 
Public testimony (when scheduled) can be given in person at your LIO or call (907) 465-4648 prior to the meeting for a phone option.  Written Comments are best addressed to the chair of the committee where the bill is being heard.  If you are interested in a public testimony meeting that is not listed above please call the Kenai LIO 283-2030 or Homer LIO 235-7878.  For a full list of all upcoming meetings, please visit the Alaska State Legislature’s webpage at akleg.gov
 
Juan Sarmiento, Homer High School senior, accepting his certificate of participation at the Poetry Out Loud competition in Juneau last week. Juan did a great job reciting his three poems and having fun in the process!
 
 
Following Bills & Committees

Access bills and committee schedules through the Legislature’s BASIS home page.  Get automatic alerts when a bill is scheduled for hearing or public testimony by signing up for “Track Bills in BTMF”.  Most committee hearings are broadcast on Gavel-to-Gavel at www.360north or through the Live Now tab on the BASIS home page. 
 
NEW!  "Chat with Legislative Information Staff
Monday-Friday between 8:30am and 4pm you will find a new chat interface in the lower right corner of AKLeg.gov. The LIO staff can help answer questions about finding things on the website, answer questions relating to tracking legislation and help you get in touch with your legislator. Let us know how we can help you!
 
Legislative Information Offices (LIO)Our Homer and Kenai LIOs are a great resource for tracking bills and participating in hearings.
 
Homer: Amber Corey 235-7878, 270 West Pioneer Avenue
Kenai: Mary Bea Byrne 283-2030, 145 Main St Loop, Suite 217
 
POMs Email is the preferred method of communication for our office.  POMS is currently operational but may experience a delay in reaching our office.  If needed, contact your local LIO office who can email us your comments.
 
 
Bits & Pieces
 
HEA Poster Contest
Homer Electric Association is sponsoring their 23rd annual Electrical Safety poster contest. The contest is open to 3rd and 4th grade students only and entries must be turned in to HEA office by March 31st. Please contact Tanya Lautaret at 283-2305 or tlautaret@homerelectric.com.
 
Ombudsman and Victims' Advocate Recruitment
The Legislature is responsible for appointing the Ombudsman and the Victims’ Advocate, whose terms expire in 2017.  Applicants are needed and the application period ends April 3rd.  If you would like any additional information, please feel free to contact Crystal Koeneman at (907)465-4766 or Juli Lucky at (907) 465-4695.
 
2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year Nominations are Open
Any interested Alaskan may nominate a teacher for the award. Nominations are due by May 1st.  Please contact Cecilia Miller at cecilia.miller@alaska.gov or 907-465-8703 for additional information.

 

Contact Us

If you would like to speak to me regarding a specific issue, it is helpful to first get in touch with the member of my staff handling related issues. 

Homer: May-December
270 W. Pioneer Ave., Homer AK 99603
907-235-2921 or 1-800-665-2689; Fax: 907-235-4008

Juneau: January-April
State Capitol – 120 4th St., Juneau, AK 99801
New location: Room 505
907-465-2689 or 1-800-665-2689; fax: 907-465-3472

Kenai: 907-283-9170 (will transfer automatically to Homer or Juneau)

Rep. Paul Seaton Rep.Paul.Seaton@akleg.gov
website:  http://akhouse.org/rep_seaton/

Jenny Martin Jenny.Martin@akleg.gov
Constituent issues and questions, General Capital & Operating Budget information,CAPSIS requests, Personal Legislation

Taneeka Hansen Taneeka.Hansen@akleg.gov
Legislation & Sustainable Fiscal Plans in House Finance, Personal Legislation
 
Joan Brown Joan.Brown@akleg.gov
Operating Budget, Finance Subcommittees
 
Arnold Liebelt Arnold.Liebelt@akleg.gov
Operating Budget, Finance Subcommittees

Tom Spitzfaden  Tom.Spitzfaden@akleg.gov
Intern

 
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Rep. Seaton's Session Contact Information:
 

Mailing Address:
State Capitol - 120 4th Street,
Juneau, Alaska 99801
Phone: (907) 465-2689
Toll-free: 1-800-665-2689
Fax: (907) 465-3472
email: Rep.Paul.Seaton@akleg.gov

http://akhouse.org/rep_seaton/
 

 
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