Staying on Top of the Alaska Legislative Session: 2021
In 2021, the Alaska State Legislature is scheduled to convene on January 19, 2021, and adjourn on May 19, 2021.
The Legislative Branch is responsible for enacting the State of Alaska laws and appropriating the money necessary to operate the government. Alaska has a bicameral legislature composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives is composed of 40 members elected from 40 election districts for two-year terms. The Senate has 20 members elected from 20 senate districts for four-year terms, with one-half of the members standing for election every two years.
HB 170 is making moves! Public Testimony Friday 4/30 at 8 am>>
Bills to watch
HB= House Bill / SB= Senate Bill
Some bills have corresponding bills in House and Senate.
This bill would add new limitations to the use of force by police. SB 1 would prohibit police from restraining people in ways that prevent breathing or circulation of blood. But there appears to be wiggle room in the definition - it would bar officers from “knowingly” using them “in a manner likely to produce a loss of consciousness,” but would not bar them when deadly force is authorized by law or department policy.
- Senator Gray-Jackson (Begich)
The bill would require the Council to adopt regulations that would require officers (including police, probation, parole, and correctional) to de-escalate with people who respond “aggressively” to officer contact or arrest, using techniques that are not lethal. It would also require officers to intervene if they see (or ought to see) their colleagues engaging in misconduct, and report to supervisors. There are exceptions, however. De-escalation is not required if it is not safe to attempt. And intervention is not required if it is not safe to attempt. The regulations would also require officers to immediately report to their supervisors incidents of officer misconduct.
- Senator Gray-Jackson (Begich)
This bill would prohibit police from discharging a firearm at/toward a moving vehicle that another person is operating. There is an exception: police could fire weapons at a moving vehicle if it might kill another person or the officer.
- Senator Gray-Jackson (Begich)
Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. SB 5 would make Juneteenth a state holiday.
- Senator Gray-Jackson (Kawasaki, Begich, Hoffman)
- SB 14 would allow the Governor to fill judicial openings on these courts by appointing ANY lawyer who has practiced in Alaska for at least five years, eliminating the requirement to select the most qualified candidates.
- It would subject judicial appointees to legislative confirmation, a provision the Founders rejected by an overwhelming vote because it introduces politics into our system of judicial selection.
- For the first time in state history, judges would have to pass a subjective ideological test. The legislation imposes a new and unenforceable obligation on the Alaska Judicial Council to determine that judicial candidates understand and commit to “strict constitutional interpretation of statutes and regulations and adhering to legislative intent.”
These changes that would politicize the judicial selection process, SB 14 would transfer the responsibility for providing voters with impartial information about judges in retention elections from the Alaska Judicial Council – which has competently performed these functions for years – to the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has no experience in evaluating judges
- Senator Shower
Building on the successes of the Alaska Sustainable Energy Act, SB 17 extends the energy efficiency retrofit program to schools and community centers that are eligible for the Power Cost Equalization Program. This creates incentives to reform retrofits for buildings that receive State support for their energy bills, which will save the State, school districts, and communities money.
SB 17 will also provide rapid economic recovery by bringing in new investment to support an Alaska-based clean energy industry.
- Senator Begich
This bill prohibits “severability” in a citizen's initiative - Severability is a feature of the law that allows the rest of a statute, contract, or proposed legislation to stand if a section of it is struck down by the courts.
A previous version of SB 23 was deemed to likely be an unconstitutional restriction on the people’s right to implement direct democracy through the initiative process.
- Senator Revak
SB 39 seeks to undermine local control of elections, suppress voting in Alaska, and take away the legal mechanism that adds thousands of new voters annually rolls through Alaska's Permanent Fund dividend - automatic voter registration statute. It will increase barriers to voting by adding additional hurdles to vote by gutting the successful automatic voter registration system, which was passed overwhelmingly by Alaskans. SB 39 will strip municipalities and rural communities of the option to control their own election process.SB 39 is a "solution" to a problem that doesn't exist. Alaska's elections are safe and secure, and there was no evidence of voter fraud this last election cycle. SB 39 limits our right to act as a community and care for our elders, neighbors, and friends by making it illegal to deliver a ballot for a friend or neighbor.
- Senator Revak
This bill proposes changes to new campaign disclosure reporting requirements enacted through the passage of Ballot Measure 2 in the 2020 general election. The measure will go into effect during the upcoming April 2021 Anchorage municipal election cycle and requires independent expenditure groups involved in candidate election activities to report to the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) within 24 hours of receiving a contribution. It also requires the contributor to report within 24 hours of contributing to a group. Provisions of the proposed bill would extend these same reporting requirements to independent expenditure groups and their contributors involved in ballot measure campaign activities. The Alaska Center supports increased transparency in election financing, though we are opposing this legislation pending further legal analysis of its impacts.
- Senator Hughes
The bill seeks to give the Department of Natural Resources the power to authorize commercial development on any state land regardless of its status - refuge or park or otherwise - and to put a fine point on it, the bill proposes to repeal the Recreational River statutes that protect six popular and anadromous Mat-Su rivers: The Little Susitna River, The Deshka River, The Talkeetna River, Lake Creek, Alexander Creek, and The Talachulitna River.
- Governor Dunleavy
Increases the speed at which rape kit testing occurs, creates further protections for underage victims of sexual abuse, and updates the state’s decades-old sexual consent law.
-Rep. Tarr ( Foster, Tuck, Zulkosky, Spohnholz)
Eliminates and prevents discrimination in employment, in credit and financing practices, in places of public accommodation, in the sale, lease, or rental of real property because of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, changes in marital status, pregnancy or parenthood.
-Rep. Josephson (Hopkins, Tarr, Hannan)
House version of SB 39. Repeals PFD/AVR and vote by mail for local government, and makes ballot collecting a crime.
- Rep. Rauscher
Increases civil penalties and fines for oil spills.
- Rep. Josephson
Requires the Department of Public Safety to employ two persons in the department to act as liaisons between law enforcement agencies and federally recognized tribes and to investigate cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women.
- Rep. Zulkosky (Hopkins, Kreiss-Tomkins)
Allows voters to preregister to vote at age 16 so they can be registered automatically when they turn 18.
- Rep. Hopkins
Allows the use of electronic signatures for voter registration. Calls for the same early voting locations to be available during every election. Creates an option for permanent absentee voting for individuals that plan to vote by mail in every election. Requires the Division of Elections to provide a postage-paid return envelope with absentee ballots. (Eliminates the need for stamps to vote)
Clarifies terminology for early voting to remove confusion between early voting and absentee in-person voting. Requires election officials to notify a voter if their absentee ballot is rejected.
Requires the Division of Elections to offer a voter the option to fix a mailed-in absentee ballot if there are errors. Eliminates the witness requirement for absentee ballots. Increases the pay for poll workers from $12 per hour to $15 per hour. Clarifies that candidates and groups sponsoring ballot initiatives can have poll watchers. Allows absentee ballots to be counted as they are received instead of waiting until after the polls close on election day.
- Rep. Tuck
This bill seeks to authorize subsurface natural gas drilling and development in Kachemak Bay, which is currently off-limits to oil and gas development. The drilling must occur from on-shore sites. Rents and royalties from lease sales in subsurface Kachemak Bay would go to the State’s Renewable Energy Fund.
Permits the Attorney General to investigate alleged election violations identified by the director of the Division of Elections, a member of the public, or the Attorney General. Provides an avenue for people to build a narrative about election instability and fraud when there has been no evidence of either, further undermining people’s faith in the election process and disenfranchising voters from all walks of life.
This bill increases the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) power to offer state forest land for timber harvest. The state canceled a large timber sale due to an appeal to a Forest Land Use Plan in 2017 - Forest land use plans, also known as FLUPs, are one of the final steps before a harvest moves forward. FLUPs provide guidelines like harvest methods and mitigation measures and serve as a last opportunity for public comment and agency consultation. HB 98 would make FLUPs non-appealable or subject to reconsideration. In addition to Southeast, this bill would streamline vast timber production in the Mat-Su valley.
Permits the division director to conduct additional hand counts and to audit more precincts as appropriate. Adds voter signature and two identifier requirements on absentee ballot envelopes. Gives the division director more power to set the amount of money required to be put up on deposit prior to a recount - currently, this amount is established in statute. Allows communities with less than 750 population to conduct elections by mail.
An Act relating to elections; requiring a risk-limiting audit of selected election results; requiring state elections and local elections conducted by the state to be conducted by mail; requiring certain vote-by-mail ballots and election materials to be provided in certain written languages other than English; establishing an online ballot tracking and registration verification system; establishing vote centers, ballot drop boxes, and ballot tabulation centers; eliminating the use of precincts, polling places, absentee ballots, and questioned ballots in certain elections; establishing new elections offenses; and providing for an effective date
- Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins
HB 170 would create an entity within the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority that would put together large scale clean energy financing packages. It is a version of a GreenBank, which is a model for leveraging private sector capital into large energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
- Gov. Dunleavy
Expansion of Broadband is critical to provide equity in education and services across Alaska, including renewable energy generation and smart microgrid technologies. There is a lot of talk about Broadband expansion from the Biden Administration. This resolution will serve as a small but meaningful signal flag to the Feds that we don’t want to be left out of the discussion.
- Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee