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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:

April 17, 2017  Vol. 222


Greetings from Juneau this 91st day of session.  I am proud to report that this past week the House acted on the four pillars of our comprehensive, sustainable fiscal plan.  Oil and gas tax & credit reform, HB 111, passed the House on Monday and was heard in Senate Finance and Senate Resources last weekend.  The House version of SB 26, creating a structured draw from the permanent fund, moved from the House Wednesday.  And on Saturday, the House passed the Education Funding Act, HB 115, which creates a modest state income tax and directs the revenue into the public education fund.  Together with smart budget cuts, these three bills are a comprehensive, stable, and sustainable fiscal plan. 
 
Oil has paid our state expenses for a long time.  We have benefited from the infrastructure oil helped to build with our schools, public safety, the university, transportation, and health care.  Even with oil prices increasing slightly, production will not reach the levels we need to fund our state services (see my report on the Spring Revenue Forecast below).  Alaska needs a sustainable revenue stream that eliminates volatility.  Economists have told us that certainty is paramount to growing our economy.  Without certainty, Alaska’s recession will continue.  Our Alaska House Majority Coalition’s four pillar plan provides a sustainable revenue stream which balances the impact equitably across all economic segments of our society.  The reduction to the PFD is balanced with a progressive income tax.  By including a revenue stream based on a broad-based tax, the state can continue to provide for the increasing needs of education, health care and public safety that come with economic growth and increased population.
 
Together, these three pieces of legislation will provide a stable stream of revenue that allows our schools and services the ability to plan for the year ahead.  Along with smart cuts spread over time, departments can plan for reductions and partnerships with the private sector, while minimizing the impact to the services.  PFDs will be guaranteed at $1250 for 2018 and 2019 after which they will grow through positive investments and protection of the permanent fund principal and the earnings reserve account with our modest 5% POMV (percent of market value) draw for state services.  Residents, nonresidents, and small businesses will have over a year to plan and prepare for the implementation of the income tax, which will not start until January 1, 2019 when employers withholding begins.
 
These are tough choices and the significance of what we are working on has kept us here beyond the 90-day period.  The public has asked us to get the job done this year and I and the Alaska House Majority Coalition that I stand with are here to do the work to help create the Alaska we want to live in. 

Click here to read a copy of my closing speech for CS-HB115 on the House Floor.
 
I encourage you to continue to share your comments with the Senate on the fiscal plans our coalition has presented, as well as the operating and capital budgets.  You can find contact information for legislators here or contact our Kenai LIO 283-2030 or Homer LIO 235-7878.  Encourage the Senate to schedule hearings for the fiscal plans you support.  The LIOs can also alert you to hearings or you can sign up for Bill Tracking.
 
Click this link for more resources on HB115 & SB26:  http://akhouse.org/rep_seaton/state-revenue-restructuring-act/
 
Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at the Alaska Council on School Administrators conference.  After House Finance public testimony Monday night, I attended the student art show that evening at the state museum.  There were many pieces of inspiring artwork by Kenai Peninsula Borough School District students and others from around the state.  I was able to meet with KPBSD Superintendent, Sean Dusek and his wife Lynn, and Dave Jones, KPBSD Assistant Superintendent.  I appreciate the dedication of Sean, Dave, and all the KPBSD staff and teachers, as well as the parents, foster parents, grandparents, and students who work tirelessly to support our children and their education.
 
Our University of Alaska Legislative Intern, Thomas Spitzfaden, is wrapping up his time with us.  Tom will conclude his term by presenting our House Finance Committee bill before the Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday.  HB 215, DHSS: Public Health Fees, will give the Division of Public Health the opportunity to collect reasonable fees to support essential public health services consistent with its duties and authority under state law, services that protect Alaskans from preventable illness, injury and death.
 
Our last lunch with our intern Tom Spitzfaden.  Tom grew up in Juneau and will graduate in May from the University of Alaska Southeast.  He has been accepted to the University of Cambridge and will relocate to the U.K. in September.  If you called our office in Juneau, you may have spoken with Tom because he did a lot of work with constituents.  Tom assisted my staff on a range of tasks and worked on his own research project.  The office has been very busy this session and the extra hands were much appreciated. We will miss Tom and wish him the best in all his future endeavors. Thanks also to my wife, Tina, who cooks us lunch each Friday. (Staff picture from left:  Jenny Martin, Joan Brown, Arnold Liebelt, Taneeka Hansen, and Tom Spitzfaden)
 
Operating Budget
 
There has been no change regarding the operating budget.  Conference Committee has not yet been appointed as the focus is on getting bicameral agreement on the fiscal plan.  As I mentioned last week, once the Conference Committee is appointed, the legislature will go from scheduling hearings five days in advance to just 24 hours in advance
 
Senate leadership announced in a press conference April 13th that only the Resources and Finance committees will continue working through the end of the legislative session and just on the bills related to the fiscal plan.  House committees, however, will continue to work on legislation and receive presentations on topics the 90 day constrained session did not permit.
 
Senate Finance took public testimony on the Governor’s version of the capital budget last Tuesday.  Thanks to everyone from the district who called and emailed.  Senate Finance will continue to hold the capital budget in order to incorporate any necessary last-minute budget adjustments.
 
Last Friday, the Department of Revenue released the Spring 2017 Revenue Forecast.  The amount of unrestricted general fund revenue (from oil and other sources) for FY17, the current fiscal year, is expected to increase by $200 million.  The projection for FY18, which begins on July 1, 2017, is also expected to increase by $208 million.  There is some concern that the underlying fall 2016 oil production forecast which shows a decline of 12% is too conservative for FY18, given the production increase of 2% in FY17.  The production forecast portion of the Revenue Forecast is prepared by the Department of Natural Resources and is only fully updated for the fall Revenue Forecast.  I believe the two departments will be providing the legislature with a range of oil production decline rates and the corresponding increased revenue projections in the very near future.  That will provide a slightly improved fiscal situation upon which to base the FY18 budget.  The slight upturn in the revenue forecast, however, does not in any way avoid the need for a comprehensive fiscal plan.  Even an increase of 100,000 barrels per day would only translate into an additional $200 million per year, not enough to solve our fiscal problems.
 
There were many press reports last week about the Senate’s cuts to the Pioneer Homes.  The Senate’s budget does show a reduction of $6.5 million in the Pioneer Homes’ budget.  That $6.5 million is comprised of two cuts: $818,500 to personal services and another personal services cut of $5.7 million that was “placed” in Pioneer Homes, but could be allocated throughout the Department of Health and Social Services, making the $5.7 million an unallocated cut. 
 
The Senate cut a total of $16.8 million statewide through these unallocated cuts in section 4 of the Senate’s budget.  The administration believes, and the Alaska House Majority Coalition and Legislative Legal Services concur, that an unallocated cut attempts to transfer the responsibility for making budget reductions from the legislative branch to the executive branch.  Therefore, the administration determined that those Senate unallocated budget cuts would be taken where the Senate placed them, to the extent possible. 
 
That led to the administration’s notification of potential closure to the Pioneer Homes’ residents in Palmer and Juneau as those are the two Pioneer Homes that would likely be affected if the Senate’s unallocated cut remains after the Conference Committee negotiations.  After significant public outcry, the Senate made clear in the floor session on April 13th that no portion of that $5.7 million unallocated reduction is to be applied to the Pioneer Homes.  The Governor followed that up with a letter to Pioneer Homes’ management thanking the Senate for their “Sense of the Senate” floor action on the 13th and making clear his commitment to keeping all Pioneer Homes open.   I am hopeful that the Conference Committee will remove this unallocated $5.7 million cut from the budget.
 

Sean Dusek, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) superintendent, and his wife Lynn were in town for the annual Alaska Council of School Administrators conference.


FY18 Budget & District 31 
 
My staff has prepared these summaries of the House operating and Senate operating budgets, highlighting those programs and services that people from District 31 have called to check on with my office.  There have been no changes since last week.  Those areas that differ will be open for negotiation at the conference committee such as K-12 education, Pre-K, Best Beginnings, Parents as Teachers, Public Health (Senate cuts will close the Kenai public health center), and the Council on Domestic Violence / Sexual Assault.  Those areas the House and Senate agree on will not be up for negotiation such as public radio and Online with Libraries (OWL) which are both fully funded at the governor’s level.  The House and Senate also agree on fully funding Pupil Transportation at $6.4 million, but they use different funding sources.  Therefore, only the funding source will be negotiated, not the amount.   Click here for last week’s summary highlighting those Capital projects that people from District 31 have called to check on with my office.  If you have comments regarding budget items, please share them with my office as well as other Representatives and Senators.  Please also share your opinion on which fiscal solution bills you support.  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. 
 

On Saturday, the House passed the Education Funding Act, HB 115, which creates a modest state income tax and directs the revenue into the public education fund.  Together with smart budget cuts, HB115, SB26 and HB111 are a comprehensive, stable, and sustainable fiscal plan. 

 

House Finance Committee

Mon. - Fri. 1:30-3:30pm
 

Last Monday was devoted to SB 26, Appropriation Limit & Permanent Fund: Dividend; Earnings.  The bill has changed since it was originally introduced by the governor and now includes the permanent fund restructuring originally set out in HB115.  The bill is conditional on the passage of HB 111 Oil and Gas Tax Credits and HB 115 Education Tax Act.  
 
Thank you to everyone who called or emailed their public testimony on Monday evening. SB 26 passed out of committee on Tuesday and passed the House Floor on Wednesday.  On Friday, the Senate voted not to concur with our changes.  On Saturday, the House voted not to recede and the bill will go to conference committee.  Also on Tuesday, we heard and moved HB 115, Education Funding Act.  The committee adopted a new Committee Substitute changing the bill to only a “School Tax” funded by a state income tax and designating the money to the public education fund. HB 115 is expected to generate approximately $687 million annually.
 
On Wednesday three bills were presented to House Finance.  HB 166, Museum Construction Grant Program, was heard and held.  The act creates a museum construction grant program as a matching grant program within the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, but does not allocate any funding for the program at this time.  HB 103, Optometry & Optometrists was also heard on Wednesday, amended, and then passed from committee on Friday. The bill will allow the optometry board the authority to regulate its practice the same as other prescribing health professions.  Ophthalmologists are concerned the change would allow optometrists the ability to perform surgery, which they feel optometrists would not be qualified for based on their level of training.  Optometrists maintain that they would not license anyone to practice beyond the training they receive in their accredited schools. 
 
HB 151, CINA; Foster Care; Child Protection, was heard and held.  It implements significant new training and workforce standards throughout the foster care system.  The bill also provides for the employment of mentors to help caseworkers become more effective and make the transition from training to a full caseload.  The act extends subsidies for adoptions and guardianships to age 21.  
 
On Thursday, we heard and moved out of committee HB 127, Criminal Conviction Overturned: Receive Past PFD.  This bill allows an individual who was ineligible for the dividend because of a conviction to receive the dividend if their conviction is vacated or reversed and the charges are dismissed or they are found not guilty on a retrial.  We also heard and moved out of committee HB 47, Municipal PERS Contributions/Interest, which would correct an unintended consequence of the PERS “salary floor” that some municipalities find themselves under through no fault of their own, due to population reduction of over 25% and reduced tax base.
 
Friday we heard and held several bills and heard a presentation on the Spring Revenue Forecast by the Dept. of Revenue (see above for more details).  HB 76, Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund, amends the existing fund to allow up to 40% of the fund to be used for loans to permitted shellfish hatcheries for planning, construction, and operation.  HB 128, Shellfish Enhancement Projects & Hatcheries, creates a regulatory framework with which Alaska Department of Fish & Game can manage shellfish enhancement projects and outlines criteria for issuance of permits.  It sets out stringent safety standards to ensure sustainability and health of existing natural stocks.  HB 167, State Agency Performance Audits, will eliminate the need for performance audits that are costly and rarely used by legislators.  For the past two years, these reviews have not occurred because the legislature has not appropriated the necessary money.  SB 3, Small Vessel Wastewater Exemption, reinstates the statutory exemption from large cruise ship discharge requirements for small commercial passenger vessels. And last on the agenda, HB 103, Optometry and Optometrists, which was described above.  HB 103 was moved out of committee with one amendment, which clarified that optometrists would not perform any surgeries that are beyond the training received in an accredited school.
 

The Alaska Council of School Administrators sponsored a student art show at our state museum last Monday night. There were many pieces of inspiring artwork by Kenai Peninsula Borough School District students and others from around the state.


House Finance Schedule for the Week of April 3, 2017:
Mon. – Fri. 1:30 – 3:30 pm unless otherwise noted

Monday April 17, 2017  1:30 PM- all bills open for public testimony
HB 124 - BENEFIT CORPORATIONS
HB 91 - APOC REGISTRATION FEES; LOBBYIST TAX
HB 25 - INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR CONTRACEPTIVES
SB  88-AK MENTAL HEALTH TRUST LAND EXCHANGE
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 1:30 PM- all bills open for public testimony
HB 38 - WORKERS' COMPENSATION: DEATH BENEFITS
HB 69 - REPEAL WORKERS' COMP APPEALS COMMISSION
HCR 3 - APRIL 2017: CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH
SB 51 - EXTEND BOARD OF VETERINARY EXAMINERS (pending referral)
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Wednesday, April 19, 2017  1:30 PM- all bills open for public testimony
HB 74 - DRIVER'S LICENSE & ID CARDS & REAL ID ACT
SB 34 - DRIVER'S LICENSE & ID CARDS & REAL ID ACT (pending referral)
SB 97 - PENSION OBLIGATION BONDS
HB 150 - PAY, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS FOR MILITIA MEM
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Thursday April 20, 2017  1:30 PM- all bills open for public testimony
HB 159 – OPIOIDS; PRESCRIPTIONS; DATABASE; LICENSES
HB 164 – PROTECT: VULNERABLE ADULTS/LONG TERM CARE
SB 83 –  PROTECT: VULNERABLE ADULTS/LONG TERM CARE (pending referral)
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Friday, April 21, 2017 1:30 PM
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled
 
Saturday, April 22, 2017 1:30PM
Bills Previously Heard or Scheduled

For Public Testimony:  Contact Homer LIO 235-7878 or Kenai LIO 280-2030 for more information.  Email testimony to:  HouseFinance@akleg.gov

 

My House Finance co-chair, Rep. Neal Foster (District 39-Nome), and I on the House Floor during a break.  
 

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: 04/17
3:15 pm House Labor & Commerce
HB222: Licensure of Manicurists/Nail Techs
SB93: Credit Report Security Freeze
 
5 pm Senate Resources
HB111: Oil & Gas Production Tax; Payments; Credits
 
Tuesday: 04/18
10 am House Fisheries
HB107:  Fish Enhancement Permits- tentative
 
3 pm House State Affairs
HB224: Reemployment of Retired Teachers & Administrators- tentative
 
Thursday: 04/20
3 pm House State Affairs
HB11: Retirement Incentive Plan for Public Employee’s/Teachers- tentative
 
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
Governor Walker and Dept. of Revenue Commissioner, Randy Hoffbeck, (seated behind me in the gallery) attended our House Floor session to show their support when the House Committee Substitute for CSSB26 was passed last week.
 
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

Foster Wear Program
Do you know a child in Foster Care or a Foster Care Family? Let them know about discounted clothing for children in foster care through the Foster Wear Program.  A Big Thank You to these participating stores in our District 31: Homer's Jeans, Gear Shed/Redden Marine, and Ulmer's!  Contact OCS Licensing Manager Yurii Miller at (907) 451-5075 or yurii.miller@alaska.gov.
 
Alaska Community Forest Council seeks new members
The Alaska Community Forest Council is seeking to fill six council seats in 2017.  The council is a nonprofit organization and advisory body to the Division of Forestry that works to improve Alaskans’ quality of life by expanding and caring for urban and community forests.  Follow the link for an application or contact Stephen Nickel at 269-8466 or stephen.nickel@alaska.gov.  Applications are due no later than May 3, 2017.
 
Alaska Teacher of the Year Nominations are Open
The Alaska Teacher of the Year Program gives us an opportunity to identify Alaska’s best teachers.  Any interested Alaskan may nominate a teacher for the award.  Contact: Cecilia Miller at AlaskaTOY@alaska.gov or 907-465-8703.
 

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
Follow me on Facebook at Representative Paul Seaton

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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