Legislative Watch – Jan 30

Murkowski focuses on mental illness help

Photo by Matthew Felling - Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski gives a phone interview to KFQD’s Dave Stieren last week in the halls of Congress. Above her is a historic portrait of Henry Clay.

Photo by Matthew Felling - Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski gives a phone interview to KFQD’s Dave Stieren last week in the halls of Congress. Above her is a historic portrait of Henry Clay.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski contends it is “way past time” for the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee to focus on America’s mental health care.
She noted Alaska’s critical fight against youth suicide and the latest efforts to identify mental and behavioral issues early in childhood to improve outcomes across the country, especially in rural America.
 Murkowski outlined her recent legislation to prevent suicides in young Americans, adding “I find it troubling that in everything we do that we cannot seem to make inroads” on this long-time priority and national need.
In her first question, Murkowski asked Pamela Hyde of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration what are the latest efforts at America’s universities and campuses for early intervention with troubled students. Hyde responded that a new Surgeon General report has created an atmosphere of awareness and action on campuses and “after care” treatment that makes sure counseling delivers better-lasting results.
An overriding concern of Murkowski throughout her questioning was access to primary health care for mental issues in rural America. Last week, Murkowski introduced The Garrett Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization with her colleague Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to strengthen the support and care for mental illness in American youth nationwide.

HB 51 modifies oil, gas taxes and credits

Rep. Paul Seaton filed a bill to modify oil and gas corporate taxes and grant tax credits in certain conditions in House Bill 51.
A criticism of the oil tax regime in Alaska is that its combination of taxes and credits leads to high government take at very high oil prices and reduces Alaska’s international competitiveness, Seaton says in his sponsor statement.
“Although it can be argued that the credit/tax combination makes investment in Alaska attractive, the true decision makers within multinational corporations are the boards of directors who make these decisions based on strategic opportunities and broad indexes like relative competitiveness,” he wrote. “HB 51 directly targets the true decision makers by making adjustments to the credit/tax system that improves our competitiveness calculation while preserving the current basic structure to maintain stability of our system.” 
HB 51 lowers the Oil and Gas Corporate Income Tax rate by over a third, from 9.4 to 6.2 percent, while eliminating the ‘loophole’ called worldwide apportionment. 
HB 51 eliminates the 0.1 percent tax rate increase above 50 percent, which caps the ACES production progressivity tax at a maximum 50/50 split.  Currently, ACES production ‘profit’ tax base rate is 25 percent which applies up to $30 of ‘profit’ per barrel at which point the tax rate increases by 0.4 percent per dollar of ‘profit’ to a max of 50 percent.  The tax rate thereafter increases by 0.1 percent per additional dollar of profit and caps at a total tax rate of 75 percent.  It is this additional 25 percent tax rate that is eliminated by HB 51.
The bill also extends the small producer tax credit for 10 years.  This credit is only applicable if production begins and provides direct incentive for early completion of projects. HB 51 also allows the refunding of the Net Operating Loss tax credits in one year instead of two. 

2014 election endorsement – already

The NEA-Alaska Political Action Committee for Education made an early endorsement of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich for re-election in 2014. Alaska AFL-CIO, also endorsed Begich for election in 2014.

President Ron Fuhrer said the NEA wanted to do this now to give strong backing. “Sen. Begich is accessible to all Alaskans and we stand ready to work hard to ensure he will continue to be in the Senate to protect Alaska’s interests.”
 The NEA cited three reasons: Begich’s deep understanding of the unfunded mandates and problems with No Child Left Behind. He co-sponsored the repeal of Social Security’s GPO (Government Pension Offset) and WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision). He also stays in touch with Alaska’s teachers and education support professionals, Fuhrer said.
This is the second time Begich has been endorsed by the Alaska AFL-CIO, which represents over 50,000 workers. “This is an unprecedented early endorsement by the Alaska labor federation,” President Vince Beltrami said. “Typically, endorsements occur in the year of the election. Not only did the endorsement for Begich come more than a year ahead of the typical schedule but the vote was unanimous.”

Bill to increase voter rolls

A group of Democrats announced they are filing a bill to increase the number of Alaskans who vote.  Their bill will allow Alaskans to register the same day they vote. 
“This bill contrasts with efforts we saw leading up to the 2012 election. That effort was pushed by the corporate-funded GOP leaning group American Legislative Exchange Council and others to lower voter turnout by requiring additional forms of identification not currently required in Alaska,” said Rep. Les Gara in a news release. ALEC is funded by companies like the foreign drug-maker Bayer, drug-maker Abbott Labs, and over a hundred large corporations. See a complete list at www.sourcewatch.org.
Currently there is a bill pending in the Alaska Legislature that requires photo ID, or hard to locate documents like a birth certificate and other documents people might not readily have at their disposal. Rep. Max Gruenberg is main co-sponsor of the bill who sits on the Judiciary Committee where these bills are likely to be heard. 
Same day registration is allowed for voting in presidential elections under federal law, and in 11 states in state elections.
Without same day voter registration the following Alaskans who want to vote will have their votes in legislative races disqualified:
Voters who move a few blocks and don’t realize under redistricting that they are voting in the wrong district. Young voters who don’t know the arbitrary rule that you have to register 30 days before you vote.   Voters who move, show up at their old voting precinct, and don’t realize their vote will not count in legislative and local races.

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Posted by on Jan 30th, 2013 and filed under More News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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