Hudson runs for 7th term

Legislator pushes three of his eight bills through this session

Posted: Monday, May 15, 2000

A dozen years in the Legislature isn't enough for Rep. Bill Hudson.

The Juneau Republican, who represents the Mendenhall Valley, has filed to run for another two-year term in the state House of Representatives. After a ceremony for his pet bill's passage from legislation to law, he said his current term came with both disappointments and successes.

His boating safety bill was a success. Under the measure, boating safety awareness will be boosted with money made available by a state registration program for boats, he said. The new law will save lives, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

``The boating safety bill was no doubt my best work,'' Hudson said.

It was among three of the eight bills he sponsored during the 21st Legislature's two years that became law.

Hudson said a bill that didn't go far disappointed him the most. After working on a long-range fiscal plan the Legislature put before voters last year - which was overwhelming rejected - he tried again.

This year, Hudson said his living room served as an organizational center for a bipartisan group of lawmakers who wanted to keep pushing for a way to close the gap between state spending and state revenues.

That effort resulted in a bill that would use some earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund to help pay for government - about $373 million in 2001, according to Hudson. The plan also came with unidentified taxes. Neither the plan nor the bill went far.

Though the House Finance Committee spent an evening listening to the plan, it died.

``It essentially came to a screeching halt,'' Hudson said. ``But we can't rest. We have to continue to educate the public. We can do this and actually enhance the value of the permanent fund dividend over the long haul.''

If re-elected, he said, he'll try again.

Hudson said he considers his work to lower the age for assured health care coverage of prostate cancer screening, and a moratorium on the hair crab and scallop fisheries, also at the top of his list of accomplishments.

Higher on that list was the Legislature's approval of state employee contracts, supported by all three Juneau lawmakers.

The end of the five-year, $250 million budget-cutting plan promoted by GOP lawmakers drew a loud sigh of relief from Democrats. Hudson said he's also pleased the plan has run its course.

``I was not here (in the Legislature) when that was set in stone by the GOP,'' he said, referring to a two-year break in his legislative service. ``I'm very happy to see that done with. We've got to stop cutting pennies and work on a long-range financial plan.''

Hudson said he tried to get money for a planned second Juneau high school into a $300 million bond package passed by the Legislature this year, but couldn't pull it off.

He said part of the problem was the state of Juneau's legislative delegation. He is in the House's GOP-led majority. Rep. Beth Kerttula is in the Democratic minority, but that House minority is big enough to have some leverage.

Working as one of five in the minority in the Senate, Hudson said, Juneau's Sen. Kim Elton, a Democrat, has little pull.

``You have to be a player one way or the other,'' Hudson said. ``He (Elton) just didn't have the power to sway things for Juneau's betterment.''

Elton noted that in the Senate, the bond package included money to start building new classrooms at the University of Alaska Southeast, though money for Juneau harbors, which would have required a city match, were lost.

The House version of the bond bill had 25 percent more money than the Senate's, which sent $12.3 million to Juneau projects.

Hudson said he's been assured Juneau's desire for a new high school in the Mendenhall Valley won't be forgotten next year.

``We're coming down the pike,'' he said.

John Clough, a Democrat who ran against Hudson two years ago, said he was ``pleased'' to see Hudson take a stand on finding a solution to the state's fiscal problems, but was ``disappointed'' by how Juneau fared in the public works department.

One point Hudson used during his last campaign was the importance of having a member of the GOP majority in the Capitol. When compared on a dollar-per-voter basis, Juneau got far less public works money than other election districts in the state. Clough said that shows majority membership isn't all it's cracked up to be.

``I'm not saying that it's his fault personally or not,'' Clough said.

He said it's not Hudson, but the majority that doesn't appear concerned with Juneau's needs.

Marc Wheeler, with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, went a step farther. He said Hudson was ``beholden'' to the GOP majority caucus. He noted a floor vote on an amendment to one of this year's budget bills during which Hudson voted against partial funding for the fast ferry planned to link Juneau and Sitka.

Hudson said he had to vote that way. As a member of the majority, he was obliged, he said, to vote with the caucus.

``I had to vote for the budget,'' he said.

This is the first of three reports on Juneau's legislative delegation scheduled to run in the Empire this week.

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