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Second round of prefiled bills includes proposal for armed school employees

Legislature starting work Tues.

Posted: January 11, 2013 - 5:10pm  |  Updated: January 13, 2013 - 1:09am

The second batch of bills prefiled ahead of the upcoming legislative session became public Friday, with items among the proposed legislation including a bill that would allow school districts and private schools to authorize employees to carry guns on school property, as well as a bill that would slash corporate income tax to one-third its current rate for new corporations.

Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, introduced the armed school employees bill, House Bill 55.

The bill would amend state law prohibiting the possession of firearms on school property by adding an exemption for a “school employee authorized ... to possess firearms on school grounds.” There is already an exemption for a law enforcement officer “acting within the scope and authority of the officer’s employment.”

School districts and private schools would be able to authorize employees to carry guns if the employees have “completed firearms training acceptable to the commissioner of public safety” and if they adopt a written policy outlining how the guns are carried and when they can be used, under Lynn’s proposal. Any employee carrying a gun would also have to have a permit to do so.

Lynn said the purpose of the bill was to give school districts options for protecting students.

“There’s total freedom of choice on that,” said Lynn. “We’re not mandating anything one way or the other. … I think it’s up to the local school districts as to how they can best protect the kids.”

Lynn cited last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999 as incidents that influenced him in putting forth the proposal. He said he prefiled the bill before an incident at Dimond High School in Anchorage Tuesday, wherein police took a student into custody after he displayed a BB gun resembling a handgun.

“It wasn’t any particular thing, but I thought it was time,” Lynn said, adding, “It’s not a simple thing. There is no perfect answer. Other things need to be done too, of course, about making sure that the crazy people are receiving proper treatment.”

But Lynn distanced his bill from the broader debate over gun ownership rights.

“I think law-abiding citizens ought to be able to defend themselves, but that’s a whole separate issue,” said Lynn. “Somebody will be trying to make it into that.”

Lynn concluded, “In the meantime, while we do have Second Amendment rights and I hope we keep them, school districts need to address the issue (of student safety) and see what they think is best.”

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, and two incoming Anchorage Democrats, Reps.-elect Andrew Josephson and Geran Tarr, are sponsoring House Bill 48, which would provide three years of a lower corporate income tax rate for newly incorporated corporations, except those that are created by the purchase or expansion of an existing entity or those that are majority-owned by the owner of an existing corporation “unless the new corporation is in a separate line of business.”

H.B. 48 grants the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development’s commissioner — currently Commissioner Susan K. Bell — authority to define how corporations are determined to be “in a separate line of business” from one another.

Gara said Friday morning that the intent of the bill is to spur economic diversification in Alaska.

“It’s going to take a lot to make Alaska’s economy more diverse so it’s not just resource-dependent,” Gara said. “This is one way we can help promote a more diversified economy.”

Gara added, “We already don’t tax most businesses in the state … but this is also something that we can advertise to people who own companies as we try to bring them up here.”

The bill will not benefit extraction industries, Gara claimed, because the tax break for new corporations only lasts for three years after their incorporation. In that time, he said, extraction companies are typically in the exploration phase, not profiting.

“It would be irresponsible, I think, to take away the public’s revenue indefinitely, but a three-year tax break, I think, makes sense,” said Gara. “It really won’t cost anything. It’ll only raise money, because it only applies to businesses that start up. … So, it’ll actually raise money. And hopefully over the long term, it will raise a lot of money and bring a lot of jobs to Alaska.”

But Gara identified an oil tax cut, such as the one proposed by Republican Gov. Sean Parnell last year, as a potential obstacle to creating a better environment for new business in the state.

“The only thing that could damage that is if the governor gives away $2 billion in oil revenue,” Gara said.

Responding via email to Gara’s assertion, Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said the governor believes tax reform “must encourage new production” as well as being “simple,” “durable for the long term” and “fair to Alaskans.”

Leighow added, “Oil production drives opportunities for Alaskans. Alaska engineers, contractors and maintenance personnel earn their livelihoods from oil production; indirectly, so do business owners, retailers, and working men and women of all trades. If we stay on the same path of decline, opportunities for Alaskans will diminish.”

All told, 18 bills were prefiled for the second set of prefiled legislation. Last Monday, 56 prefiled bills were made public as the first set. That brings the total of prefiled bills ahead of the legislative session, which begins Tuesday, to 74.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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