Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, hopes to stop dangerous driving while talking on a cell phone and the sale of synthetic marijuana with bills she’s pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session.
Each of the three members of Juneau's legislative delegation are each sponsoring or co-sponsoring two bills before the session even begins, called pre-filing. Muñoz’ House Bill 22 takes up where a similar effort by Anchorage Democrat Mike Doogan failed in the last session. The bill intends to ban use of a cell phone while driving. There is an exception for hands-free phones, said Muñoz aide Kendra Kloster, after the representative heard from truckers and others in the transportation industry they needed to be able to communicate while driving. Kloster said the office has reviewed numerous studies showing the danger that the distraction of a cell phone can have before Muñoz decided to introduce the legislation.
“It’s similar to drunken driving, and similarly dangerous,” Kloster said.
Texting-while-driving is already against the law in Alaska, she said.
Muñoz is also introducing legislation to ban the sale of synthetic cannabinoids by listing them as Schedule IIA controlled substances. Those are commonly known and sold as “Spice” or “K-2,” Kloster said, though the bill lists the chemical composition rather than the trade names. Kloster said there have been numerous reports of incidents with those pseudo drugs, including seizures, but they aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Adminstration and put those who use them at risk.
“You are almost playing Russian roulette with your body,” Kloster said.
Fellow Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Democrat, is co-sponsoring Muñoz’ legislation.
Kerttula, who also serves as House Minority Leader, is also profiling two bills of her own. House Bill 51 would allow state facilities to be used to provide child care, and help alleviate what she said is a statewide shortage of adequate, up-to-code facilities in which to provide quality care for children.
“I believe one solution is for the state of Alaska to step up and provide space for child care centers in state office buildings, as proposed in House Bill 51,” she said in an announcement of her new legislation.
Kerttula’s other pre-filed bill would create an Alaska Public Garden Day. It is modeled after a similar national day that celebrates and promotes botanical gardens, zoos, arboreta, historic gardens and other public gardens. House Bill 18 would be the Saturday before Memorial Day each year.
Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, is co-sponsoring two bills introduced by other senators. One, Senate Bill 3, would help provide school lunch and breakfast to students who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch. The bill would help districts with many students eligible for the meals to begin to offer breakfast, Egan aide Jesse Kiehl said. Senate Bill 3 was introduced with bipartisan sponsorship of 10 senators, the most of any pre-filed bill in the 20-member body. Egan is also joining four other Democrats in seeking to expand the number of children and pregnant women eligible for medical assistance. Senate Bill 5 would move the eligibility from 175 percent of the poverty level to 200 percent of the poverty level.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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