Oil taxes remain the legislature’s top issue this week, with six hearings scheduled on Gov. Sean Parnell’s bill to bring them down. But there’s also plenty else going on in Juneau, from consideration of education and home energy bills to visits from state dignitaries.
This week, the legislature may send its first passed bill of the session up to the governor’s office. And it could be an item that Parnell specifically asked for.
A bill to roll back regulations on cruise ships is scheduled to appear on the Senate floor on Monday. It easily passed the House last week, with all but one member of the Republican majority supporting it. The bill has received criticism from environmental groups, tribal organizations, and some members of the fishing industry because it would allow cruise ships to release their wastewater into mixing zones instead of having them meet water quality standards at the point of discharge.
A number of bills will get their first committee hearings this week. On Monday, an item creating a low-interest loan program for heating system upgrades will be introduced in House energy. It’s received support from members of both parties. On Tuesday, the House Health and Social Services committee will hear a bill that would require people receiving state public assistance or Alaska Native family assistance to undergo drug tests before receiving cash benefits. Urine tests would be “random and suspicion-based.”
The bill would also amend state code to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits. Friday, a bill that would allow school districts to implement four-day school weeks will make its first appearance in the House education committee. The bill is sponsored by two Republicans and a Democrat, and the intent is to give rural schools with traveling athletes, and the like, more flexibility with their schedules.
Some of the state’s top legal and military officials will be visiting the Capitol this week. Both chambers will meet together on Wednesday for an address from Dana Fabe, the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. On Thursday, high-ranking officers from the Air Force, National Guard, and Coast Guard will brief members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.
- So far, the Juneau School District has enrolled about 230 more students than it expected. If the higher enrollment remains true in October, the district could get enough additional state funding to cover a near $200,000 deficit.
- Juneau-based nonprofit, Southeast Alaska Land Trust, was denied its property tax exemption earlier this year. Now the Assembly will take another look.
- "A lot of ice experts, including myself, thought we were headed for a record year minimum," said Hajo Eicken, a professor at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.