About 100 business owners from all over the state visited Juneau this week to meet with legislators and fill them in on the priorities of the Alaska business community.
Members of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce met with 59 of the state’s 60 lawmakers over the course of two days, chamber Deputy Director Andy Rogers said. The chamber’s Legislative Fly-In happens at the start of session each year. The Juneau Chamber of Commerce hosts a series of collaborative talks and events during the visit.
“This is our kickoff to session: Bring everyone down, let legislators know how the business community feels,” he said.
The state chamber has five priorities it presented to legislators this year, Rogers said. Opposition to the repeal of Senate Bill 21, oil tax policy changes passed in 2013; comprehensive workers’ compensation reform to reduce cost of insurance for employers; Medicaid expansion in Alaska as long as the state continues to receive a 90 percent federal match; energy cost reduction; and increasing “responsible natural resource development by improving the efficiencies of the permitting process and gaining access to resources” were all talking points for chamber members this week as they met with lawmakers.
To tie in with the start of the 2014 session, the state chamber and the Juneau chamber hosted former Alaska Redistricting Board Chairman John Torgerson as the speaker at the first weekly Alaska Business Roundtable Luncheon of the session. The state chamber and Juneau chamber “work closely ... on a lot of issues,” Rogers said.
Torgerson discussed the challenges of developing the “contentious” new state political boundary maps, approved after three years of work in July 2013.
Some of the challenges of the task were adhering to the Alaska constitution as well as the U.S. constitution, a population shift from rural to urban areas and minority districting, Torgerson said. The approved map was frowned upon by local Alaska Native corporation Sealaska, which believed the new lines eliminated Native representation in the region, according to a past Empire report.
The draft maps bounced around the court system and were revised many times before finally being approved, he said.
“The good news is, it’s done,” Torgerson said.
Rogers said it’s important for business owners to understand redistricting, who represents them and how it impacts them. There are about 700 Alaska Chamber members statewide.
“As a business person, your ability to perform in an environment is impacted by the way the federal government regulates you, the way state government regulates you, the way municipal government regulates you,” he said. “The thought was to bring someone in who can give insight on how that worked and what we can expect in the future.”
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.