Knowles signs supplemental budget
Gov. Tony Knowles signed this year's supplemental budget into law Friday, saying it provides for most - but not all - of the state's pressing needs.
The bill, which includes $9.5 million in state funds and $10.3 million from federal and other sources, covers emergency and unexpected items for the current fiscal year. Among the programs funded are fire suppression, Power Cost Equalization, Longevity Bonus grants and child support enforcement.
Knowles also signed three other bills: SB 176, allowing single-gender health clubs; HB 192, setting policy for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in schools; and HB 340, authorizing the Ketchikan Indian Corporation to establish a regional housing authority.
Spill response plan bill passes Senate
A bill requiring ships and the Alaska Railroad to give the state a spill response and prevention plan passed the Senate by a 16-2 vote Friday.
Senate Bill 273, sponsored by Senate President Drue Pearce, an Anchorage Republican, aims to extend the law beyond oil tankers to ships 400 gross tons or bigger that carry fuel to power their engines. Those vessels, she said, have many more spills than their oil-bearing brethren.
In the last five years, Pearce said, so called ``no-tanker'' vessels and the state's railroad have been responsible for 10 times more spills and have spilled 50 times more oil than tankers have.
Under her measure, the railroad and big ships - which she said have spilled 258,000 gallons of oil in 945 spills in the past five years - would have to let the Department of Environmental Conservation know what they plan to do to prevent and clean up a spill. It would also mandate that those reporting show they can pay the cost of cleaning up a spill.
The bill is scheduled for its first hearing in the House Resources Committee in the coming week.
Ban on toxic ship paint goes to Knowles
A bill banning a form of highly toxic bottom paint from use on big ships in Alaska is a governor's signature away from becoming law.
Senate Bill 266, sponsored by Sen. Loren Leman, an Anchorage Republican, passed the House on a 31-1 vote Friday. Since the bill matches a version passed 17-1 by the Senate, the measure now goes to the desk of Gov. Tony Knowles, who is expected to sign it.
Under existing law, large ships - including big cruise ships - are exempted from a 1987 state ban on paint containing tributyltin. That ingredient is designed to kill barnacles and other organisms that might cling to a ship's hull, but has also been found to damage shellfish.
``It's the right thing to carry that ban onto the big ships,'' said Rep. Bill Hudson, the Juneau Republican that carried Leman's measure in the House.
The bill doesn't call for removal of paint already applied, but no new paint could be applied after 2001. The paint lasts about five years.