It’s a rare year when the Alaska Legislature finishes on time in 90 days, without plans for a special session. The two previous years saw legislators slip into overtime when Gov. Parnell called them back to look at his unpopular oil tax credit bill. This time, should it be a surprise that a (mostly) obedient Legislature gets to go home on time?
The dust needs to settle from what got kicked up on the Senate and House floors. It will take us a few days, maybe months, to fully understand what’s up and what’s down in terms of the 73 bills passed. But from the position of post-session relief, here’s a short list:
• Tax breaks for humans: Depending on how much of your paycheck formerly went for the AK SUI designation, we’re all in for a bit of money to stay in our pockets. The acronym stands for unemployment insurance, located just under Medicare deductions on a typical paycheck stub. As of July 1, this measure becomes effective. Hey, oil companies got billions in tax breaks and we got a few dollars of our own.
• With all the agonizing scrutiny – or lack of it in certain quarters – on SB 21, a disastrous permitting bill didn’t get that much attention. This is a good thing, because it deserves a session of its own. HB 77 held ramifications for the coal development at Chuitna, for gold/molybdenum at Pebble and every other mine that normally includes a public input process. It takes away water rights salmon have to their streams and rights of people to speak for the salmon.
• In addition to being an oil producing capitol of the United States, we might just get in on future gun manufacturing action, thanks to the passage of Rep. Mike Chenault’s bill. Just think. We could be the Smith, Wesson and ConocoPhillips state. The gun manufacturing lobby alone is worth hundreds of millions spent in Congress each year. Alaska, if the idea takes hold, could earn new revenue from a whole new market. Alaskans like their guns. Maybe they would also like to see jobs created and state revenue from them.
• Ghost boats: Rep. Paul Seaton’s derelict boat bill passed. This doesn’t mean that if another boat sinks nearby and oil sheens start stirring through oyster beds, Homer people won’t have to sit by in frustration until the big agencies take over. It doesn’t give that much control to local authorities since a state and federal process must be followed under oil spill pollution laws. But it’s a step in the right direction for cleaning up a serious concern in Alaska as an aging fleet of commercial fishing vessels finish up their useful work lives. Such was the case this winter when two derelict wooden commercial fishing boats sank in Jakolof Bay. Now, thanks to Seaton’s bill and Cook Inletkeeper, local authorities will be able to require fuel removal and other protections on abandoned or nonworking boats moored in bays.
• Gov. Jay Hammond gets a day of his own July 21, a day all Alaskans will use to celebrate ideas that helped create the economy Alaskans enjoy today. Our father of the Permanent Fund Dividend, our clarifier of the Alaska Constitution on matters of resource development, has received much acclaim and misattributed quotes in recent years.
Now, maybe, the legislators who like to invoke his spirit will go back and actually read some of Hammond’s many, many writings on topics like oil development that he polished to a – forgive this, Gov. Hammond – sheen.
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