Prefiled bills would cut government costs

Posted: Sunday, January 02, 2000

One state legislator wants to cut lawmakers' pay and another wants to shorten the time they spend in Juneau.

Those proposals are among 20 new bills and resolutions lawmakers filed in advance of the Jan. 10 restart of the legislative session. Another batch of new bills will be released to the public Friday.

The new ideas join about 400 bills and resolutions left over from last spring that will compete for legislators' time and attention in the second year of the current legislative session.

Rep. Jeannette James, a North Pole Republican, will be pushing a measure to lower legislators' monthly salaries from $2,001 to $1,801.

``I've been listening to the news reports and the general public complaining about why - if were asking them to cut - why don't we cut?'' she said.

She doesn't favor cutting legislators' per diem - the daily payments they receive for the time they're in Juneau or for days worked between sessions. Legislators need that if they are to abandon their jobs and keep up two homes during the 4 months they're in Juneau, she said.

Rather, she would cut the monthly salary they receive all year long. Most legislators do have other jobs, so that salary is not their only source of income, she said.

``This is where I'm willing to cut,'' she said. ``I'm sure no one else is. I'm sure they're going to be mad at me for filing this bill. I just decided I wanted to make a statement to the folks out there.''

Sen. Sean Parnell, an Anchorage Republican and co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is introducing a constitutional amendment to shorten legislative sessions from 120 to 75 days.

``It's just a good government measure,'' Parnell said. ``We can get the work done in a shorter period of time, we can save money doing it, and we can attract more people to serve.''

The length of sessions now - they occupy about five months of the year including moving time - makes running for office unattractive to many people who would have to leave jobs and families for that period of time, he said.

Some of the other new bills being introduced include:

Senate bills 187 and 188 by Anchorage Democratic Sen. Johnny Ellis would require children under age 16 to wear helmets when riding bicycles or off-road vehicles.

House Bill 260 by North Pole Republican Rep. John Coghill would limit state medical coverage for pregnant women and children to those whose income is 100 percent of the federal poverty level. The current allowable income level is 200 percent of the poverty level. Health and Social Services Commissioner Karen Perdue said the bill would violate federal laws that require states with Medicaid programs to serve pregnant women and children with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level.

House Bill 255 by Eagle River Republican Rep. Fred Dyson would allow villages to incorporate under state law as ``villages'' rather than cities, be governed by a village council and be led by a chief or elder, rather than a mayor.

House Bill 256 by Coghill would require videotaping of all interviews with children who are alleged to have been abused or neglected.

House Bill 267 by Anchorage Republican Rep. Andrew Halcro would allow physical fitness facilities or gymnasiums to limit their clientele to only men and boys, or women and girls.

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