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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 20, 2017 Vol. 218


Greetings from Juneau this 63rd day of session.  Last week the House spent the majority of our time on the floor debating the budget.  134 amendments were submitted; in the last 15 years we have seen no more than 32 floor amendments to the budget.  A few of the amendments were adopted.  Many of those that failed were proposed cuts to budget allocations without acknowledging the effect the cuts would have, such as reducing substance abuse services.  Those amendments failed because our majority coalition believes that smart cuts means recognizing and understanding what services will be sacrificed with that cut, not just expecting the departments to do more with less.  Debate and passage of the budget itself will begin today.
 
In the finance committee we had valuable discussion on HB 115, the Revenue Restructuring Act.  Much of it focused around the appropriate balance between protecting the long-term health of the permanent fund and providing for the state and the people’s dividend.  Amendments to the bill were adopted that guarantee at least a $1250 dividend for the next two years and provide a slightly higher annual use of the earnings.  I am ready to dig back into the new revenues portion of this fiscal plan, the income tax.  The House fully funded this one year’s budget using the earnings reserve from 2017 to fully fund education plus the 5.25% draw for 2018.  But without new revenues future years will again be faced with a deficit that must be filled from Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) savings.  I want to see a fiscal plan that is sustainable into the future.
 
The fourth pillar of our fiscal plan is reductions to oil and gas tax credits.  That will be the topic of committee all next week.  If you want to testify, make your way to the Homer or Kenai LIO on Saturday, March 25th
 
Last week I enjoyed visits from several Kenai Peninsula constituents.  Kiki Abrahamson was in town delivering beautiful silk paintings created by Fireweed students in grades third through sixth.  The art project was the result of a three week study of climate change.  Each silk panel was painted with a different climate change theme.  Kiki was able to share the project with Lt. Governor Mallot and the Juneau LIO was so impressed they will be dedicating three panels in April so all the paintings can be displayed in the Capitol’s hallway.  I’ll share photos of those when they are hung up.  Also coming to Juneau were Homer students Hannah Stonorov and Alana Hoolihan who were visiting during their spring break.  They stopped by the office with their Homer friends Rocco and Sidney Flora, who both live in Juneau during the session along with their parents Sarah Banks and Louie Flora who was my former staff.  Rocco, Sidney, and Hannah are all guest pages today on the House Floor.  I’ll share some photos next week.  Last, Roan Rediski and Tadhg Scholz were in town for the annual AYEA: Alaska Youth for Environmental Action conference.  Though I wasn’t able to meet with them due to our long floor sessions, my staff was impressed by Roan’s and Tadhg’s knowledge of environmental issues and legislative processes on both the state and federal level.  With students like these leading the way, I have great faith in our future.
 
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 .

 

Homer students Alana Hoolihan, Hannah Stonorov, Sidney Flora and Rocco Flora all stopped by for a tour of the capitol on Friday. 

 

House Finance Committee

Mon. - Fri. 1:30-3:30pm
 

The House of Representatives spent many hours on the Floor last week debating 134 budget amendments, the vast majority of which were not adopted.  Adopted amendments included:

  • Additional transfer of nearly $50 million into the Public Education Fund to build the balance to forward fund K-12 education. 
  • Adding legislative intent language requiring a privatization study before the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities hires any further private sector contractors.
  • A decrease of nearly $852,000 in unrestricted general funds for legislative per diem, a 75% reduction.
  • Adding legislative intent language that no state funds may pay for specialty memberships unless authorized by law.
  • Adding legislative intent language that the Division of Motor Vehicles may not use funds to implement or maintain the collection of biometric data compatible with facial recognition software.
  • Reversal of a $1.2 million transfer in the Department of Public Safety (DPS) disallowing the transfer of the Department of Revenue’s criminal investigative unit into the DPS (Revenue had proposed the supervision and training of the criminal investigative unit be transferred to DPS – wanting them to be armed when they go into potentially dangerous situations.)  This was seen as a policy decision that should not be done through the budget process.  

After passage, the budget bills, HB 57 and 59, will be transmitted to the Senate for concurrence.  The Senate will not, however, concur with the House’s budget.
 
The Senate’s budget process will likely conclude this week or next. The Senate will then amend our bill and send it back to the House for concurrence.  The House will not concur. 
 
So the next step in the budget process is that the Speaker of the House and the Senate President will each appoint three members (each body’s two Finance Committee co-chairs and a minority Finance Committee member) to a six-person Conference Committee that will negotiate and come to agreement on all of the differences between the two bodies’ budgets.  The chair of the Conference Committee alternates between the House and Senate, with the House chairing in the first year of a Legislature, so I expect to be the chair this year.
 
The Senate takes the lead on the capital budget and will transmit the capital budget bill to the House.  It will go to conference committee also and the capital budget bill is usually the last appropriation bill to be finalized.
 
On Monday of last week the House Finance committee heard SB 30, Approval, Royalty Oil Sale to Petro Star, HB 6, Jonesville Public Use Area, HB 90, Occupational Licensing Fees; Investigation Costs, and HB 31, Sexual Assault Examination Kits.  SB 30 is a standard bill to approve the sale of the North Slope oil we receive as a part of our royalty payment.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expects that selling this oil to Petro Star will result in $22 - $27 million in additional revenue over what the state would have received from taking the royalty payment in value.  SB 30 moved from committee on Friday. 
 
HB 6 would create a public use area near Sutton to help clean up the “wild-west” recreation area which contributed to an accidental death this summer; it would direct the state to create a management plan that could be enforced by DNR employees and troopers.  I am a little concerned, however, that there are unrealistic expectations around the cost of this designation.  HB 6 currently has a zero fiscal note, but a similar public use area around the Knik River cost $140,000 to create a management plan and costs the state $200,000 annually to enforce, even after user fees pay some of the cost.  Public testimony on HB 6 is still open.
 
The committee had good discussion about HB 90, which would spread the costs of investigations across all professional licensing boards instead of spiking the licensing costs of individual boards.  I think everyone agrees that something needs to be done so that the cost of one investigation doesn’t shut down a board, but some members are concerned that spreading out the investigation costs would remove the pressure to keep them efficient.  Although it is not directly addressed in HB 90, I am interested in how much investigations into unlicensed activities are costing the boards and how much we are able to recover from those unlicensed practitioners.
 
Monday we only had a brief introduction of HB 31, Sexual Assault Examination Kits, but the committee adopted a new version of the bill which may bring down the cost.  Instead of requiring the state to develop a tracking system for the kits, the new draft would require all police officers to receive training on sexual assault and on how the sexual assault kits are to be used.
 
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday we considered amendments to HB 115, the State Revenue Restructuring Act.  Under the newly adopted amendments, the annual payout from the earnings reserve (based on a percent of market value or POMV) will now be higher for the first two years, FY18 and FY19, while the state is stabilizing its budget and while the income tax portion of HB 115 is being established. This means slightly higher dividends as well.  For FY18 and FY19 there is also a minimum dividend of $1250; this is close to what the dividend would have been under formula that the bill establishes, but it guarantees at least that amount for the first two years.  After fiscal year 2019 the payout from the earnings reserve will return to the lower rate of 5% of the market value, which is a more sustainable rate for long term use of the earnings.  The $1250 guaranteed dividend amount also ends in that year, but under the formula created in HB 115 the dividend is expected to be above $1250 even without setting that as the minimum.  I look forward to continued work on this portion and on the income tax section of the bill at future meetings.
 
This week the committee will be concentrating on HB 111, Oil & Gas Production Tax; Payments; Credits.  This bill aims to address the tax credits we currently provide to oil and gas companies; with our current credit structure, it is predicted that in 2018 the amount of production tax credits that are generated in 2018 will be greater than the amount of production tax the state will collect for that year.  Last year HB 247 addressed some of the tax credits for the Cook Inlet area but did not do enough to address the North Slope.  Oil taxes are a complex subject and this week will be full of presentations from the Department of Revenue, the Department of Natural Resources, and the legislature’s oil and gas consultants.
On Thursday we will return to HB 115, the State Revenue Restructuring Act.  After taking public testimony and expert presentations last month, we have been working to integrate their insightful comments into an improved version of the income tax section of the bill.  New revenue is a key component of a sustainable fiscal plan; without a new revenue source like an income tax, we risk putting too much pressure on the earnings reserve account. 
 
Saturday at 10 am the committee will take public testimony on HB 111, Oil & Gas Production Tax; Payments; Credits.  Details on how to participate are included in the schedule below.
 

 


House Finance’s Schedule for the Week of March 20, 2017:
Mon. – Fri. 1:30 – 3:30pm unless otherwise noted
 
Monday, March 20, 2017                             
HB 111 - OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX; PAYMENTS; CREDITS
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Tuesday March 21, 2017  9:30-11:30 AM
HB 111 - OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX; PAYMENTS; CREDITS
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Tuesday March 21, 2017                              
HB 111 - OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX; PAYMENTS; CREDITS
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Wednesday, March 22, 2017                        
HB 111 - OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX; PAYMENTS; CREDITS
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Thursday, March 23, 2017 9:00-11:00 AM
HB 115 - INCOME TAX; PFD CREDIT; PERM FUND INCOME
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Thursday, March 23, 2017                           
HB 111 - OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX; PAYMENTS; CREDITS
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Friday, March 24, 2017                                
HB 111 - OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX; PAYMENTS; CREDITS
 
Saturday, March 25, 2017  10:00 AM - 2:15 PM
Public Testimony for HB 111 - OIL & GAS PRODUCTION TAX; PAYMENTS; CREDITS

Public testimony
 
-Public testimony is limited to 2 minutes each.
-Please arrive or call 30 minutes prior to the end of the allotted time period or testimony will close early.
-Please try to arrive 15 minutes early to expedite the sign-in process.
-If you are calling from a community without a legislative information office call Off Net. Please call 465-4648 for the call-in number.
-If you are a member of a group with the same message, in the interest of time, please select a spokesperson to testify for the entire group.
-*If you live in a community with a legislative information office, but are unable to access it during the specified time period, you may send your written testimony to the House Finance Committee via housefinance@akleg.gov.
 
If questions – contact Amber in Homer LIO 235-7878 or Mary in Kenai LIO 283-2030.
 

 

Kiki Abrahamson shows off one of the great climate change silk paintings created by Fireweed students.  These silk paintings will be on display in the capitol in April.

FY18 Budget & District 31 
 
My staff has prepared a summary of the FY18 operating budget that includes the amendments passed last week.  The summary 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 235-7878, Mary in the Kenai LIO 283-2030 or Jenny in my office 465-2689 to assist you. 
 
Thank you to everyone who called and emailed their public testimony to the Senate Finance committee last week.  My staff tracked the responses for me to review during breaks from the floor sessions.  Senate Finance will reveal their cut to K-12 Education and Pupil Transportation during their amendments this week.  They have proposed a 1-5% cut.  A 5% cut equates to approximately $75 million statewide.   Click here for a chart listing the impacts to each school district.  My staff will have a summary of the Senate’s budget bills in next week’s newsletter or call the contact numbers noted above for more information. 
 
Homer students Tadhg Scholz and Roan Rediski and were in town for the annual AYEA: Alaska Youth for Environmental Action conference. Here they are pictured with my staff Jenny Martin.
 

Legislative Budget & Audit Committee

Meets as needed throughout the year.

No meeting was held last week nor scheduled 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: 03/20
1pm House Resources
HB 105  Denali Wolf Special Management Area 
 
1:30pm Senate Judiciary
SB 6  Industrial Hemp Production
SB 55  Omnibus Crime / Corrections. 
 
3:15pm House Labor and Commerce
HB79 Omnibus Workers’ Compensation
 
7pm House Resources
HB 87 Conflict of Interest: Board of Fish and Board of Game
HJR 12 Opposing Genetically Engineered Salmon
HB 32 Label Genetically Modified Food
 
Tuesday: 03/21
9:30am Senate Labor & Commerce
SB 79  Opioids; Prescriptions; Database; Licenses
SB 71  Commercial Fishing Loans. 
 
3pm House Community and Regional Affairs
HB 1 Election Registration and Voting- LISTEN ONLY
 
3pm House Health & Social Services Committee
HB 151  DHSS; CINA; Foster Care; Child Protection
 
3:30pm Senate State Affairs
SB 34 Driver’s License & ID Cards & Real ID Act
 
Wednesday: 03/22
1pm House Resources
HB 105 Denali Wolf Special Management Area
HB 134 Board of Game Membership
 
3:30pm Senate Resources
SB 88 AK Mental Health Trust Land Exchange
 
Thursday: 03/23
9am Senate Finance
SB 31 No State Employee Pay Increase for 2 years
 
3pm House State Affairs
HB 175 US President Election Popular Vote Compact
 
3:30pm Senate State Affairs
HB 3 National Guard Leave/Reemployment Rights
 
Friday: 03/24
1pm House Resources
Confirmation Hearings on Appointees to the AK Gasline Development Corp. Board:  David Wight | Hugh Short | Warren Christian
 
Saturday: 03/25
10am House Finance
HB 111 Oil and Gas Production Tax & Credits
 
1pm House Labor & Commerce
HB 83 Teachers & Public Employee Retirement Plans
 
3pm House Health & Social Services
HB 159  Opioids; Prescriptions; Database; Licenses.
 
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
Last week we debated 134 amendments to the operating budget on the House Floor.
 
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
 
Free Screenings for Preschoolers
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Child Find Program will be offering free screenings for preschoolers (3 to 5 years old) on Friday, March 24, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Your child’s motor skills, speech, early learning concepts, vision & hearing can be screened.  To make appointments contact McNeil Canyon School at 235-8181 or for more information contact Robin at 714-8930.
 
Public Testimony on proposed changes on rural airport rates and fees
The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities proposes to change regulations on rural airports to modify airport rental rates and fees and improve clarity of the provisions.  Deadline to email public testimony is 4:00 p.m. April 7, 2017.  Contact: (907) 269-0319 jennifer.bailey@alaska.gov  
 
New Public Use Cabin Reservation System
A new online reservation system for Alaska State Parks public use cabins will debut on April 1st, 2017.  For more information contact Matthew Wedeking at 269-8702 or matthew.wedeking@alaska.gov.
 

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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