The Capitol Report

March 28, 2017

Miles Baker
Associate Vice President, Government Relations

Today’s the 71st day of the legislative session. Hope everyone had a wonderful Seward’s Day.

Hurry up and wait

Although the House technically passed its version of the state operating budget last Monday, the bill was not transmitted to the Senate until Friday. Since the Senate didn’t technically receive the bill until yesterday morning, it won’t have its first Senate Finance Committee hearing until Wednesday morning. While delays of this sort aren’t atypical, it’s one of a number of indications that it’s unlikely the legislature will conclude its business by April 16th, the scheduled 90-day end date for the regular session.

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled the balance of the week and this weekend to incorporate the House’s recommendation into its own operating budget work. One of the biggest question marks is where the Senate will come down on K-12 education funding. For now, that decision is on hold, but there are indications that a 5 percent cut or $60 million reduction is possible.

Tax Legislation

As expected the House Finance Committee spent all of last week discussing HB 111, the House Majority’s oil and gas tax reform proposal. The week concluded with a Saturday morning round of public testimony. It’s unclear when that bill will resurface but no additional hearings have been scheduled for this week. This week the committee is shifting its attention back to HB 115, the majority’s proposal to restructure the Permanent Fund and institute a state income tax. Last Thursday, the committee introduced a new substitute bill incorporating a number of committee amendments and other changes. You can review a summary of those changes here. Public testimony on HB 115 is scheduled for Wednesday of this week.

Yesterday, the House Education Committee passed HB 146, Rep. Claman’s school income tax legislation. The legislation taxes the adjusted gross income of every person who earns income in Alaska. The revenue collected from the tax would be deposited into the general fund with the intent of having that income designated for public education. You can listen to the hearing here. The bill now heads to the House Finance Committee.

Bills on the Move

Last week the Senate Education Committee introduced SB 96, a substantial education reform initiative. The legislation creates a virtual education consortium to allow students to take courses offered by other school districts, incentivizes districts to pool their resources, restructures the Education Trust Fund and mandates other administrative efficiency reforms. A preliminary Senate Education Committee hearing was held on Wednesday March 22nd. You can watch the hearing and get committee presentation materials here. The committee has scheduled additional hearings Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this week.

On Wednesday March 24th, the House passed HB 64 which creates a task force on reading proficiency and instruction and the effects of dyslexia. UA would have one representative on the 15-member task force. The UA representative would be highly knowledgeable or skilled in teaching reading to both typically and atypically developing students. The bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee where Senator Dunleavy’s companion bill SB 27 currently resides. Additional background information on the legislation is available here.

Thursday, March 23rd at 9:00 a.m. the Senate Finance Committee held a preliminary hearing on SB 31, Governor Walker’s proposal to impose a two-year salary freeze on non-union public employees. You can listen to the hearing and access committee materials here. Alternatively, you can watch the 360 North broadcast of the hearing here

Friday, March 24th at 8:00 a.m. the Senate Education Committee held a preliminary hearing on SB 78, Senator Bishop’s legislation creating an education endowment fund and Permanent Fund Dividend lottery. You can listen to the hearing and access committee materials here. Alternatively, you can watch the 360 North broadcast of the hearing here. The committee has scheduled a second hearing for this Thursday, March 30th at 8:00 a.m.

Saturday, March 25th at 1:00 p.m. the House Labor & Commerce Committee held a preliminary hearing on HB 83, Representative Kito’s bill establishing a new tier within the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) and the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) that would give new employees an option of selecting either a defined benefit or defined contribution pension benefit. You can listen to the hearing and access committee materials here. Alternatively, you can watch the 360 North broadcast of the hearing here. The Senate companion bill, SB 52, sponsored by Senator Egan has not had a hearing.

Coming Up Later This Week:

This morning at 10:00 a.m. the House Fisheries Committee will hold a preliminary hearing on House Concurrent Resolution 8, a committee resolution urging the University of Alaska to maintain the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center (KSMSC). Supporting documents for the hearing can be found here. You may recall that the committee held a hearing on February 21st during which KSMSC was discussed and the draft resolution was introduced.

Wednesday, March 29th at 8:00 a.m. the State Board of Education is scheduled to present to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees.

Friday, March 31st at 1:30 p.m. the House Finance Committee will hold a second hearing on HB 141, Representative Fansler’s bill extending the Technical Vocational Education Program (TVEP) for five years through 2022. The University of Alaska depends on TVEP funds to help educate and train the skilled and talented workforce Alaska needs to build a diverse, robust and competitive economy. The Senate Labor & Commerce Committee has introduced SB 85, which would extend the TVEP program for 3 years. That bill had been scheduled to be heard last Thursday, but has been postponed until a future date.

Thank you for your continued support of the University of Alaska. For more information, contact Miles Baker at miles.baker@alaska.edu or visit www.alaska.edu/state.

Additional Capitol Reports for March 2017

Additional reports were issued on March 7, March 13 and March 20. Read those updates at www.alaska.edu/state/report

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