A Look to What is Looming: Legislative Update

The second round of pre-filed bills was released today at approximately 9:32 a.m. There are not many bills compared to historical releases (in 2012, there were 27-second session, second release pre-filed bills - in 2022 there are a mere 13.) A sage observer noted that this might reflect the sense that not a lot of bills are going to move forward in the current legislative environment. It is an election year, after all, and absent a budget stalemate; our weary legislators will be eager to get out of Juneau and get on with their lives (and election campaigns if they want to remain in office).  

A light schedule is taking shape for the first week of the session - though there are some points of interest to be sure. For one thing, the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee will be meeting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to hold a hearing on the firing of the Permanent Fund Director by the Dunleavy-aligned PF Board of Trustees. Questions on rationale are outstanding, and the judgment of the Trustees and the Governor in removing an ED who oversaw the greatest increase in fund value since the inception of the fund needs to be seriously examined.  

There are ominous rumblings that in addition to raiding the fund to pay out gigantic permanent fund dividends, the Dunleavy Administration wants to turn the fund itself into an in-state investment bank - an AIDEA* on steroids and growth hormones - pumped like the incredible hulk or a vengeful nordic god to unleash a wrath of destruction and boondoggle projects across the state.  

Oversight is good. Conservative theatrics around election integrity, not so much. However, theatrics are on the plate for the first week of session in Senator Mike Shower’s committee, where they will hear from an array of republican affiliated think tanks, likely teeing up another “Republicans must win every election forever or else the election was illegitimate” bill from Governor Dunleavy.

With so much BS in the world, the word “resilient” strikes a special note. It is about taking the long view, it is about bending, not breaking, caring for our communities in crisis now, and it is about HB 227 from the unflappable Rep. Calvin Schrage. HB 227 seeks to include climate resiliency improvements as eligible for financing under the new Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (CPACE) program. CPACE allows commercial property owners to finance clean energy and energy efficiency projects and repay the improvement loan on their property tax bills. It is an innovative program that must be adopted by ordinance in a local government, and so far, Anchorage is the first town to adopt CPACE. However, Juneau and the Mat-Su are also considering adoption.

Climate resilience is an essential consideration as we have seen a raft of disaster declarations this past month from communities impacted by winter storms. Considering what science tells us about our warming planet and its unpredictable weather, our buildings are going to need stronger roofs, fireproofing, better air conditioning, backup renewable energy, battery storage, floodwater management systems, and the list goes on. HB 227 would allow such projects to be financed under the CPACE mechanism. It is a good bill, and it will be heard in the House Energy Committee on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. The future is looking interesting this session. We hear that, as of now, the capitol is open to visitors. We will keep an eye on things and will report back every Friday.

The Alaska Center

*AIDEA = Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority 

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