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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:
May 22, 2017  Vol. 227

Greetings from Juneau on this the 5th day of the first special session of the 30th legislature.  There was discussion and some agreement with the Senate majority to extend the session the constitutionally allowed 10 days.  The House Minority would not agree to contribute the five additional votes needed for the House to reach the necessary two thirds vote, so the House and Senate adjourned on Wednesday night, the 121st day of session.  Within an hour, the governor issued a proclamation calling us back into a special session at 11 am the next day, Thursday, May 18th.  Under a special session, the legislature is limited to the topics which are placed on the proclamation or ‘call’.  The governor has focused his call on the budget and the key revenue bills that will fund it; this includes HB 111 reforming oil and gas taxes and credits, SB 26 which restructures the permanent fund, and an act or acts to increase or establish a new broad based tax.  These are, broadly, the items that make up the four pillars of the House Majority plan.  The governor has joined the House in stating that some form of broad based revenue is an essential part of a fiscal plan that needs to pass this year.  The House already put forward what we felt would be the best option, which was voted down by the Senate without an attempt to compromise.  Now I hope the Senate is willing to come forward with a revenue proposal that would be acceptable to them.  It is hard to negotiate when one side refuses to put anything on the table.
 
Most of the items on the call are in conference committee, awaiting negotiation between the House and the Senate.  The Senate failed to appoint their members for the conference committee to negotiate the oil tax/credit bill, HB111, so we must await their action on that.  The bills are closely tied to each other, so I do not expect to see final action on many items until the two bodies have had discussions on all of them.  For example, the budget is currently in conference committee and each part is being negotiated between the House and Senate versions.  However, we cannot finalize any of the negotiations until we get a list from the House Minority of what items are important to gain their support for a three quarter CBR (Constitutional Budget Reserve) vote and until progress is made on the revenue bills that will fund the budget.
 
There is one item on the call that is not related to the budget or the fiscal plan, and that is the governor’s bill to address the over-prescription of opioids, HB 159.  The House moved that bill from Finance last week and it is on the floor today and should have final action by Wednesday.
 
If you have not yet tried the income tax calculator on the House Majority Coalition website, I encourage you to give it a try.   Although the Senate has decided not to proceed at this time with a progressive tax the calculator gives everyone a chance to easily do a “reality check” to see how much impact the Education Funding Act would have on them.
 
During the last few days of the extended session the legislature passed HB 132, which will create a state regulation base for transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft.  There are many Alaskans that want the opportunity to use these companies, but there were also concerns about the loss of local control and regulation.  I supported two amendments that would have allowed local municipalities greater control and regulatory authority over TNCs.  Unfortunately, neither of those amendments passed.  However, HB 132 does allow municipalities by ordinance to opt out of allowing TNCs in their municipal limits, but that opt out decision must be ratified by a vote of the people. 
 
The legislature also passed HB 16, which creates police training standards and a voluntary license designation for individuals with disabilities.  This will ensure public safety officers receive training on recognizing and interacting with a person with disabilities, as well as the resources available to them, and would allow an individual with a disability to voluntarily indicate on their ID card that they have a disability.  The original bill passed the House unanimously and had support from many constituents.  The new HB 16 also brings the state into compliance with the federal REAL ID act.  Without legislation to bring us into compliance, by June 6 Alaskans would not be able to use their state issued IDs to enter military bases or board planes.  The governor signed HB 16 on Friday.  With its passage, you can use your existing ID until January 2018.  After that you have the choice to get a REAL ID compliant card or keep the non-compliant card and use another form of federal ID (like a passport) to board planes.
 
I enjoyed visiting with Homer residents Denice and Roger Cline on Sunday.  There has also been a flood of cruise ship passengers filtering through the Capital.  My staff Jenny will be in the Homer LIO office all this week.
 
Together a Broad-Based Tax, 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.  To help move the conversation forward contact the Senate:
District 31 email: Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov For other districts click here
  • Broad-Based Tax:  Email your Senator and get their commitment to include a broad-based tax as part of the fiscal solution this year.
  • House CS-SB26 Permanent Fund Protection Plan:  Email your Senator and request their support for an equitable plan which balances out the PFD regressive reductions with a progressive broad-based tax.
  • HB111:  Email your Senator and ask them to restore the bill to the House version. 
More resources are on my website or call my office if you have more questions.
For more resources on the budget and economy click here.
 
Operating & Capital Budgets

Operating
Last Monday, the operating budget Conference Committee held the organizational meeting.  I was elected as the presiding chair of the Conference Committee and Senator Hoffman was elected to serve as the vice-chair.  Before we can have subsequent meetings, we have to be granted limited powers that will enable us to accept any amount between zero and the higher of the budget item in either the House or Senate budget version.  So the Conference Committee members signed two letters, one to the Senate President and one to the House Speaker, asking for those limited powers.  Limited powers were granted last Tuesday.  Subsequent meetings will be noticed on BASIS under the 24-hour rule.  Now that the legislature is in special session, I expect that negotiations will continue, but that no final budget decisions will be made until there is significant progress and resolution on the other items in the Governor’s special session proclamation.
 
Capital
There’s been no change to the status of the capital budget bill, SB 23, this week.  Representative Foster and his staff are working to develop a work draft committee substitute for further committee discussion.  As I mentioned at the press availability last Friday on the first day of special session, the capital budget bill is generally the very last appropriation bill to be finalized and passed. This is because the capital budget also includes the supplemental bill, some operating items, along with last minute technical fixes that might be needed.
 
FY18 Budget & District 31
 
At this time, there are no changes to operating and capital budget summaries from several weeks ago: click here for House Operating -- Senate Operating -- Senate Capital.  These summaries reflect some of the items in each budget that district constituents often contact my office about.  If you have additional questions, contact my staff. 
 
Click here to listen to my legislative report on KBBI last week.
 

House Finance
Monday – Friday 1:30-3:30p
 
Monday the committee moved out HB 105, Denali Wolf Special Management Area and HB 151, DHSS; Foster Care; Child Protection.  HB 105 would reestablish in statute a buffer zone around parts of the Denali park road, which would be closed to wolf hunting and trapping.  A similar, larger buffer zone was created by the board of game in 2000 but was eliminated in 2010.  The intention with the buffer zone is to increase the chance of park viewership of wolves, which has decreased from 45% to 6% since the buffer was eliminated.  HB 151 looks to bring several best practice standards to the Office of Children’s Services including allowing siblings to contact each other, documenting that OCS has searched for a relative placement for a child, allowing foster parents to approve activities using the prudent parent standard, and allowing a child over 14 to participate in their case plans.  The most impactful section of the bill, and the part that requires a fiscal note, is one requiring that new caseworkers carry a caseload not to exceed 6 cases, which matches the federal guidelines. 
 
Both HB 105 and HB 151 passed the House floor on Wednesday and have been transmitted to the Senate.
 
The House Finance committee did not meet Tuesday or Wednesday.  Members spent the majority of the day on Tuesday on the House floor voting on the confirmations of the governor’s appointees.  On Wednesday, the House was also on the floor considering final action on several bills.
 
There are no House Finance committee meetings scheduled at this time.  We are now under 24-hour rule which means a committee meeting can be scheduled the day before.  My office will do our best to keep you updated on any meetings that do get scheduled.  However, since the majority of the items on the governor’s call are in conference committee awaiting negotiation between the Senate and the House, I do not anticipate the finance committee will be meeting regularly. 
 

I supported two amendments on the House Floor that would have allowed local municipalities greater control and regulatory authority over transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft.  Unfortunately, neither of those amendments passed.  However, HB 132 does allow municipalities by ordinance to opt out of allowing TNCs in their municipal limits, but that opt out decision must be ratified by a vote of the people. 
 
Legislative Budget & Audit Committee
Meets as needed throughout the year.

The committee did not meet last week and is not scheduled to meet 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
Due to the 24 Hr. Rule being in effect, please contact the Homer or Kenai LIOs noted below for more information.

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
 
Update:  Homer LIO
Reminder as of May 10, the Homer LIO transitioned from a full time office to "open as needed".  Phone and email messages will be checked frequently.  For those on the Homer LIO email list, notices will still be sent out regarding upcoming meetings and public testimony.  The office will open for teleconferences that the community wants to participate in if they have prior notice (please give the Homer LIO at least one day’s notice prior to the meeting date).  If you would like your name added to the email list or you have other questions, contact Amber at the Homer LIO:  235-7878  LIO.Homer@akleg.gov.  The Kenai LIO remains open full time, year round:  283-2030 LIO.Kenai@akleg.gov.
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

Safe Boating Week in Alaska May 20-26
Safe Boating Week focuses on the importance of boaters being “rescue-ready” during the boating season: 1.) Wear a life jacket when in an open boat or on deck, 2.) Carry emergency communication and distress signaling devices on their person, 3.) Attach an engine cut-off switch if equipped, and 4.) All boaters should have a means to re-board their boats.  Five out of six boating fatalities in Alaska are cold-water immersion related drownings, following a vessel capsizing or swamping, being ejected, or a fall overboard. Nine out of ten who died were not wearing a life jacket.  Wearing a life jacket is the simplest way to prevent drowning in a boat accident.  Contact: Kelli Toth, 907-240-6314, kelli.toth@alaska.gov

Public meetings scheduled on Kasilof River area projects

Department of Natural Resources has scheduled public meetings on Wednesday, June 14, and Thursday, June 15, to discuss facility improvement projects along the Kasilof River. The June 14 meeting will be held in Soldotna in the Community Room of the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Public Library, and the June 15 meeting will be in Anchorage in Room 102 of the Atwood Building. Both meetings will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Topics will include: Kasilof River North Side Improvement Project, Kasilof River South Side Improvement Project, and Old Kasilof Landing Site Development Project.  For information  christianna.colles@alaska.gov 269-8116.  These are ‘listening sessions’, not public hearings on any proposed plan.  For information on the Old Kasilof Landing project click here.  
 
State Board of Education & Early Development Meeting May 24
The board will not take public comment. The public is invited to listen to the audio conference, which is expected to last one hour, by calling 1-800-315-6338 and using access code 16107. The board’s meeting packet is available at http://education.alaska.gov/State_Board/ by clicking on the meeting date. For more information, call 907-465-2800.
 
Proposed Medicaid Rate Changes for Facilities, Hospitals, Professional Services and Waivers
Dept. of Health and Social Services proposes changes to regulations on cost containment measures through rate and service reductions, no inflation rate for fiscal year 2018, and no rebasing for fiscal year 2018 for services that receive customary inflation.  Deadline to comment May 30, 2017 at 5pm.  Contact: kurt.west@alaska.gov  907-465-6522.

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
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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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