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I love committee work. Every proposed law is assigned to one or more committee, where the members listen to the sponsor’s presentation, hear their testimony and read supporting documents, ask questions and hear presentations and testimony for and against before deciding whether to move the bill forward.
I find the process to be a rewarding one. As I read proposed legislation, listen to the sponsor’s presentation, hear their testimony and read supporting documents, I’m always searching for answers to the following questions:
· Is it needed?
· Is it good policy?
· Is this the best solution?
· How much does it cost? Who pays the cost?
· Who wants it? Who opposes it?
Every bill impacts someone in Alaska, and we try to give bills a thorough vetting in committee. Some bills take multiple days of hearings, with lots of testimony. Others move relatively quickly.
Yesterday, we heard eight different bills and passed seven out of the Labor and Commerce committee! While most of these bills were fairly straightforward, each addressed a different issue and impacted a different group of people:
Senate Bill (SB) 126: Visiting Physicians with Sports Teams
This bill lets out-of-state doctors contracted with a sports team practice medicine on the members of that team when they visit Alaska, without having to go through a time-consuming process to get a temporary state license.
House Bill (HB) 86: Student Loan Default and Occupational License Renewal
Currently, state law makes it possible for boards to take away someone’s professional license if they default on a state education loan. If a nurse’s license to work is revoked, it makes it very difficult for that nurse to pay off his loans! The student loan corporation does not use revocation because they found that it damages collection efforts and encouraged skilled, qualified workers to leave the state to avoid collection efforts. This bill would repeal the state’s ability to cancel someone’s license for non-payment of a state loan.
HB 102: Limited Teacher Certificates for Foreign Language Immersion Teachers
This bill allows school districts to give limited teaching certificates to otherwise qualified foreign language immersion teachers who might not be able to pass a qualifying exam in English.
HB 114: Boiler Inspection Reports
Would add a $10 fee to technical reports that aren’t submitted online (to help cover the state’s costs for data entry). This bill updates a law which predates the widespread use of the internet.
HB 121: Occupational Health and Safety Penalties
Brings AKOSH back into compliance with OSHA monetary fines, so that the state doesn’t lose out on $2 million in annual federal grants.
HB 124: Benefit Corporations
Allows for a new type of business corporation which focuses on public benefit or community involvement rather than just maximizing profits. A coffee company, for example, might want to pay a living wage to coffee growers even if it is higher than the prevailing wage. If the company is a “benefits corporation” then shareholders could not sure for failing to simply maximize profits.
HB 208: Financial Trusts
Updates and loosens parts of Alaska’s trusts laws to attract out-of-state clients to the trusts industry.
HCR 8: Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center
Expresses support for the Center, which has been targeted for closure due to UAF’s budget cuts.
… And that’s a wrap!
I’m Berta and I’m listening,
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