First Session of 30th Alaska State Legislature

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

May 1, 2017  Vol. 224

Greetings from Juneau this 105th day of session.  I want to start this newsletter by thanking all of you for taking time to be part of the process.  Your opinions, comments, and questions help move the conversation forward.  Whether you agree with my viewpoint or not, every voice counts.  I want to hear from you so please keep testifying, calling my office and emailing.
Since we are now 15 days past the statutory 90 day limit and fast approaching the 121 day constitutional limit for session, I want to spend a few minutes on how we arrived here.  Reaching consensus between the House and the Senate is challenging.  Not only do the two bodies have significant differences in policy on how to close the fiscal gap and grow our economy, there are also differences between individual legislators within each body.  Keep in mind that 60 legislators (40 in the House and 20 in the Senate) were elected to represent their districts and to faithfully discharge their duties to the best of their abilities and that’s where the necessity of compromise comes in.
The significant differences between the House and the Senate are on policy, and the state budget reflects the policy of the legislature.  The Senate Majority believes that government is still too big, that we need to cut more, that we need to protect the private sector, that an income tax is not needed and will further hurt the economy, and that we shouldn’t implement too much change all at once.
The House Majority agrees with some of these points.  Both bodies want to protect the private sector and grow the economy.  The difference is that the House Majority firmly believes we cannot cut our way to prosperity, and economists have testified to this point.  $100 million in broad-based cuts will result in significant job losses and deepen our current recession.  The private and public sectors are interconnected.  It is not possible to impact one without impacting the other.  Do we really want to go back to the days of the 1980’s where plummeting property values, home foreclosures, and shuttered businesses were common?  Why would we choose this when we have the ability this year to shore up our fiscal foundation for the long-term?
Prior to the start of session, the House Majority agreed that whatever solution is settled upon, it must be equitable for all Alaskans, that it must include multiple mechanisms, and that it must create economic stability now and into the future.  So stay engaged, stay informed, and be patient.  We are facing some of the most difficult choices in Alaskan history.  We are faced with a total revision of the mechanism for funding government, as well as competing visions of how much government should do.
Over 100 people participated in public testimony on HB115 Education Funding Act-School Tax in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee last week.  By our counts 61 were in support, 48 opposed and 5 were undecided.  I know many of you emailed your testimony as well, but the committee has not yet posted those on BASIS as of today.  My staff, Taneeka Hansen, and I presented the bill to the committee last Tuesday.  You can view the presentation here.  The committee was scheduled to have twelve meetings last week on HB115, however more than half of those were canceled, including two additional nights of public testimony.  The Department of Revenue modeling presentation was also canceled by the committee, which is unfortunate as I believe it would have provided objective information on impacts to Alaskans.  However, you can tune in to House Finance all this week to see economic modeling of the fiscal plan and to hear from Alaskan leaders of various sectors about where our state is now and what our policy choices will mean for the future.  You can tune in on BASIS or Gavel.  
Many have been asking “what is the right size of government?”  The Alaska House Majority Coalition and I believe that Alaskans are willing to pay for the services we value to move Alaska forward.  Last week, the governor’s office provided several reports that shared what programs and facilities have already been shut down in the last two years because of our fiscal deficit.  House CS-SB26 Permanent Fund Protection Plan will fill most of our $2.5 billion fiscal deficit, but still leaves a $700 million hole.  HB115 School Tax revenue would provide a stable source to fill that hole and would be designated to the Public Education Fund to support K-12 education.  Click here for a summary of what would be taxed and not taxed.  Click here for a new report by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy which finds that most Alaskan households would pay less under a personal income tax than they would under a 3% sales tax, even if the sales tax exempted food, child care and rent.  You can find other resources and a tax calculator on my website or call my office if you have more questions.  You can continue to send your comments to the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee chair:  As of today, the committee has scheduled no meetings this week for HB115.

Last week a conference committee was appointed for House CS-SB26 Permanent Fund Protection Plan.  For the House:  Rep. Foster (Chair), myself and Rep. Thompson.  For the Senate: Sen. MacKinnon (Chair), Sen. Hoffman and Sen. Egan.  I will share more on this next week as the committee begins meeting to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions of this bill.
Many of you participated in public testimony last Saturday on the Senate’s proposed $22 million cut to the University of Alaska.  Over the last three years, significant cuts to the University of Alaska have resulted in the loss of hundreds of employees and elimination or suspension of 50 academic programs.  The UA Board of Regents has expressed deep concern that the proposed cuts will have a crippling effect on the University of Alaska.  The House does not support this cut.  We believe in sensible reductions to the operating budget because if you cut too much you cripple our programs and services and set the government up to fail.  Investing in our University can save us money.  A recent study by the University shows that teacher turnover costs Alaska about $20 million each year.  It also shows that teachers educated in Alaska stay on the job longer and reduce turnover.
Also on Saturday, many of you took time to comment on HB111 Oil & Gas Production Taxes & Credits in the Senate Finance Committee.  The Senate’s new version of this bill removes transparency measures and the “ring fencing” provision which ties operating losses to a specific lease to encourage development of that lease, allows some production tax credits to also be used against corporate income taxes, and will use money from tax audits (which currently goes into our constitutional budget reserve savings account) to pay unpaid tax credits.  The Senate version further softens the ‘floor’ or the gross minimum tax that companies have to pay; softening this floor means more types of credits can be used to lower a producer’s production tax due all the way down to zero when they should be paying the minimum tax.  Instead of saving money, under this version of HB 111 revenue would be reduced by $20 to $55 million per year for the next five years.  You can continue to email your comments to the committee at: .
Still more of you shared your voice through the Great Alaska Schools rally last week.  Those that were able to participate in person stood on the Capitol steps and read the names of people calling and texting their support for a complete and sustainable fiscal plan this year.  We heard your names being read even in our office all the way up on the fifth floor!
Together HB115 Education Funding Act, House CS-SB26 Permanent Fund Protection Plan, and HB111 Oil & Gas Production Taxes & Credits, along with sensible budget cuts, make up the Alaska House Majority Coalition’s complete, comprehensive and sustainable fiscal plan.  Your testimony, phone calls and emails are helping to shape the Coalition’s four-pillar plan which fully funds our state budget.  These four pillars will help reinvigorate our economy by protecting us from volatile revenue streams, avoiding drastic cuts, providing money for capital projects and deferred maintenance, and maintaining our PFDs.

Operating Budget
FY18 Budget & District 31
There’s been no change regarding the operating or capital budget bills.  Click here to review our summaries from two weeks ago.  For more information, please contact Amber in the Homer LIO 235-7878, Mary in the Kenai LIO 283-2030 or Jenny in my office 465-2689. 
Last week on the capitol steps, Great Alaska Schools read the names of people in support of a sustainable fiscal plan this year.

House Finance Committee

Mon. - Fri. 1:30-3:30pm

On Monday the Committee heard SB 83, Protect Vulnerable Adults/Long Term Care, a bill from the governor which would update the Office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman to better align with federal policies regarding the protection of vulnerable adults, and HB 222, Licensure of Manicurists/Nail Technicians, which grandfathers in nail technicians who held a valid license prior to that profession being added to the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers.  They will not need to take the required 250 course hours if they can prove 250 hours of work experience and pass the qualifying exam.  The original bill relating to nail technicians, HB 131 from 2015, did have a grandfather provision but it was unintentionally written to only last for the first two years.  HB 222 passed from committee and passed the House on Thursday.
HB 177, Aquatic Invasive Species, was up on Tuesday.  The sponsor discussed some potential use or licensing fees relating to boats that could help pay for the necessary public education component on how to prevent the spread of invasive species.  Although the committee generally seemed to understand the need to respond to invasive species, there were some concerns with how the response options in the bill might intersect with drinking water.  Tuesday evening the committee took public testimony on HB 74, the REAL ID bill.
On Wednesday the committee heard and moved HB 131, Relocation Assistance for Federal Projects; HB 128, Shellfish Enhancement Projects, Hatcheries; and HB 76, Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund.  HB 128 and HB 76 will help shellfish hatcheries get permits and funding in the state.  Having viable hatcheries is important to the mariculture farms in our state, which rely on the hatcheries for seed stock.  HB 124, Benefit Corporations, was also up for a second hearing.  The committee considered a friendly amendment from the Bankers Association for third parties that want contract certainty when they interact with benefit corporations.  The amendment was sent back to legislative legal for a new draft to make sure it doesn’t change the intent of the bill, which is to allow for-profit corporations to hold a general public benefit purpose or mission in addition to their traditional purpose of generating profit.
Thursday the committee heard a very brief introduction of HB 159, Opioids; Prescriptions; Database; Licenses, the governor’s bill to help stem the tide of prescription opioid abuse.  The bill makes several shifts to encourage smarter opioid prescription policies, including requiring practitioners to have two hours of continuing education in pain management and opioid use and addiction prior to renewing their license and limiting first time prescriptions to seven days or less (with exceptions for chronic pain or people who will not have access to the prescriber due to logistical barriers).  Note this seven day limit is only for the first prescription; after the first prescription if someone needs continuing medication for chronic pain or a more severe issue, they will not need to return to their doctor every seven days to get it. 
On Friday we moved SB 83, Protect Vulnerable Adults, from committee.  We also had introductions of SB 78, Permanent Fund Dividend Contributions/Lottery, which will allow people to place a part of their dividend into a lottery to support education and potentially win a prize, and HB 105, Denali Wolf Special Management Area.  Several testifiers requested that SB 78 be further studied before it is passed, especially to see how it might impact the existing Pick.Click.Give. program.  HB 105 would close an area along the Denali Park road to wolf hunting or trapping, to increase the chance that park visitors will view a wolf.  Since the last buffer zone was removed by the Board of Game, the chance of wolf viewership has dropped from 40% to 6%.
This week the committee will be focusing on the fiscal plan and how the choices we make this year can affect the economy as a whole.  We will hear from leaders in the private sector and local government on what the state of our state is right now and how budget cuts, or different deficit reduction options, will impact local government, non-profit programs, and the state economy.  We will also hold first hearings on four Senate bills.

Monday, May 1, 2017                                  
The Economy and Fiscal Policy Overview Presentations:

  • Diane Kaplan – Rasmuson Foundation
  • Carl Davis – Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
The Economy and Fiscal Policy Overview Presentations:
  • Trevor Storrs, Executive Director, Children’s Trust
  • Laurie Wolf, CFRE, MNPL, President and CEO, The Foraker Group
  • Tanana Chiefs Conference – Natasha Singh
  • Central Council Tlingit and Haida – Grace Singh
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
The Economy and Fiscal Policy Overview Presentations:
  • Alaskan Business Leaders
  • Municipal Leaders 

Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled

Thursday, May 4, 2017
The Economy and Fiscal Policy Overview Presentations:
  • State Departments
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
Friday, May 5, 2017
The Economy and Fiscal Policy Overview Presentations:
  • Economists

Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled

Today, I will be presenting my bill, HB 229 Oil & Gas Business Bond, on the House Floor.  Last year, I successfully introduced an amendment into HB 247 to require oil & gas businesses to have a $250,000 surety bond or cash bond which would provide some protection to small businesses should the oil & gas business go bankrupt.  The requirements went into effect January 1st of this year; however, the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development has requested additional time to develop the right type of structure.  HB 229 would suspend the requirement for surety bonds until January 1, 2019.

Legislative Budget & Audit Committee

Meets as needed throughout the year.

Last week I was chosen to be part of an evaluation committee to review the oil and gas consultants that have responded to our request for proposals.  The consultant would provide oil and gas consulting services for the legislative committees and legislators.  The scoring process and results from the evaluation committee will be available to the public to review once the process is completed on May 8.

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:

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.

May 1, Monday
House Labor & Commerce 3:15pm
HB 230: Telecommunications & Internet Privacy
May 2, Tuesday
House Special Committee on Fisheries 10:00am
HB 231  Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission: Board Salary; Staff Classified Service. 
House State Affairs Committee 3:00pm
HB 200  Nonpartisan Open Primary Elections. 
May 4, Thursday
House State Affairs Committee 3:00pm
HB 184  Discrimination: Gender ID; Sexual Orientation and
SB 54  Crime and Sentencing. 
May 5, Friday
House Resources Committee 1:00pm
HB 238  Repeal Royalty Relief: Shale; Cook Inlet.  
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

Please continue to contact our Alaska House Majority Coalition and other legislators with your comments on fiscal plans. We need to hear from you!  You can find contact information here:

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 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

Agriculture Day May 2
Alaskans are encouraged to support local agriculture by seeking out and purchasing products produced in Alaska and educate youth about the vital role that agriculture plays in our everyday lives.  Contact: Johanna Herron, 907-745-7200,
Opportunity to Comment on Draft of State Plan to Implement ESSA
The Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) is seeking public comment on the first draft of the state plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal education law.  Alaska’s first draft was shaped by over 4,000 stakeholder comments from nearly 1,000 Alaskans at 40-plus meetings conducted across the state over the last year.  DEED now is seeking additional public comment to strengthen the first draft.  Deadline to share your feedback is May 21.  Contact: 907-465-2800.
Peninsula Job Center Workshops
The Peninsula Job Center has posted its workshop calendar for the month of May.  Workshops include vocational rehabilitation, job search strategies for ex-offenders, and more. Click here for descriptions.  Contact: 907-335-3000

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

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

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

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