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Legislative roundup for Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014

Posted: February 9, 2014 - 12:08am
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Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, right, speaks during a House Majority Caucus press conference on Thursday as Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, listens.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, right, speaks during a House Majority Caucus press conference on Thursday as Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, listens.

 

Bill would let Alaskans invest in gas pipeline

Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, introduced Senate Bill 164 on Friday, which would enable eligible Alaskans to use portions of their Permanent Fund Dividend to invest in a North Slope natural gas pipeline.

“This legislation would essentially allow Alaskans to buy stock in the pipeline and earn interest on their investment,” McGuire said in a statement. “As a lifelong Alaskan, I was here when they built the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. The energy and motivation on that project could be felt in the blood of every Alaskan. That’s what I want to do with this bill. It will get Alaskans reinvigorated about our robust oil and gas industry by allowing them the chance to have an equity share. It basically lets them own a piece of the pipe.”

SB164 would only go into effect when the North Slope Gas Pipeline is completed. The bill will head to the Senate State Affairs and Finance Committees for further consideration.

 

Anchorage Democrats propose Public Education Month

Sen Berta Gardner and Rep. Harriet Drummond, both Democrats from Anchorage, introduced resolutions to name February of each year Public Education Month in Alaska.

“Our public schools are a cornerstone of our constitution and the foundation of our future,” Gardner said. “Alaska’s public schools educate our people and level the playing field for Alaskans no matter their race, religion, or economic status. It’s important we celebrate their successes and understand the value they contribute to our state.”

The resolutions request that the State Board of Education and Early Development promote, publicize, and increase awareness of the important role public education plays in Alaska’s history.

The resolution is referred to as HCR16 in the House and SCR12 in the Senate.

 

Bill would keep AirCare Medevac Service program

Southeast lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 159 and House Bill 300 this week, which would exempt private air ambulance services from licensing under the Alaska Insurance Code.

Since January 2009, Airlift Northwest, the provider of lifesaving air medical transport services, has offered the popular AirCare membership program to residents of Southeast Alaska. More than 1,600 Southeast households are enrolled in the program, which covers the cost of any out-of-pocket expenses related to Airlift Northwest’s medevac services.

The AirCare program helps fund Airlift Northwest so they can transport critically ill or injured patients to hospitals with levels of care not locally available.

Since its inception, the AirCare program was offered to Alaskans under a regulatory exemption it received from the Alaska Division of Insurance. However, after an organizational restructuring, the Division of Insurance deemed the program no longer exempt and ordered Airlift Northwest to cease enrolling new members. Airlift Northwest is allowed to honor their existing memberships but is not allowed to renew expired memberships.

The House bill is sponsored by Reps. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau; Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell; and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka. In the Senate it is sponsored by Sens. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka and Dennis Egan, D-Juneau.

 

Olson introduces ‘Toxic-Free Children Act’

Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golvoin, introduced a bill that would ban the sale of children’s products containing toxic flame retardants known as “Tris.”

“Children are Alaska’s most precious resource. From the point of conception through the first years of development, they are especially vulnerable to the effects of exposure to toxic chemicals,” Olson said in a statement.

Some furniture and baby product manufacturers integrate Tris flame retardants into products because of flammability standards at state and federal levels, according to the statement released. The products include nursing pillows, strollers, changing table pads, car seats, baby carriers and high chair pads.

Senate Bill 151 would give the Department of Environmental Conservation the authority to prohibit the use of Tris and other toxic flame retardants and establishes a list of chemicals that are of special concern for children’s health.

 

Murkowski secures commitment to Arctic development

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, this week secured a commitment from the nominee for Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Janice Schneider, to improve the Interior Department’s permitting process and provide greater regulatory certainty for oil and natural gas exploration in the Arctic.

“I agree with you that business needs regulatory certainty and predictability. People, particularly when they are going to invest huge sums of money, need to understand what the rules of the road are,” Schneider told Murkowski. “If I am confirmed to this position, I am committed to ensuring that there is an opportunity for greater regulatory certainty, including the potential for offshore oil and gas exploration off of Alaska.”

In a statement released by her office, Murkowski said she was disappointed by Shell’s announcement last week that it was canceling its exploration plans in the Chukchi Sea this summer because of the 9th Circuit ruling on Lease Sale 193 and Interior’s failure to provide regulatory predictability for the Arctic.

 

Alaska to send salmon donation to Philippines

The State of Alaska and the commercial fishing industry will team up to donate 133,000 pounds of canned pink salmon to Philippine residents impacted by the devastating typhoon that struck the country late last year.

The Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development will spearhead the effort, which follows recent seafood industry donations of canned salmon to residents of Northwest Alaska facing food shortages as a result of ravaging storms and economic hardships.

“We’re grateful that processors in our fishing industry will be sharing a portion of their bounty with the many people in need, both in Alaska and the Philippines,” said DCCED Commissioner Susan Bell.

Bell said the donation will be coordinated through relief agencies in the Philippines, which will distribute the salmon to as many families and communities as possible. The canned salmon should be ready to ship by mid-March.

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