Leg with Louie

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Weekly Legislature recap and analysis by The Alaska Center's Government Affairs Director, Louie Flora.

Leg With Louie: Next Week Reviewed, with Editorial Comments – April 16

For certain dorks, like myself, 4:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon can be fraught with expectation. That is when the upcoming week’s schedule comes out. Under legislative rules, all committee hearing notices must be at the legislative Clerk’s office by 4 p.m. at the latest to be noticed for the next week. If you miss this cut-off time, you are, as my former UAF professor Walkie Charles said, “SOL: Sheer Out of Luck.” There are no do-overs or take-backs for the hapless committee staff who may have overlooked the time on accident. For public notice purposes, the legislature has determined that 4 p.m. on Thursday provides adequate time for the public to get their affairs in order, hire babysitters, get their phone charged, and prepare their thoughts to observe (or even better) participate in a legislative hearing by providing testimony. Thursday at 4 is the golden hour. 

Each week we at The Alaska Center highlight bills and hearings for the week ahead and put this list in a tab at the bottom of the email. Still, I want to give this section of our weekly effort a more prominent place because there were many noteworthy finds when I perused the offerings on Thursday at 5:00 p.m., and it is the highlight of a Thursday to find out how the game will unfold, and what to prepare for. Thanks be to the Clerks who put all of the meetings up online in such a timely manner:

Bills/Hearings to Watch Next Week (with editorial comments in Italics) - Note: I only include those bills/hearings that generally fall within the wheelhouse of The Alaska Center. For the complete list, go here http://w3.akleg.gov/index.php

Monday, April 19

1:00 p.m. - House Resources Committee - HB 98 FOREST LAND USE PLANS; TIMBER SALES 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.

1:30 p.m. - Senate Judiciary Committee - SB 23 INITIATIVE SEVERABILITY - The State Supreme Court in 2018 allowed an initiative to proceed to the ballot after sections that the court found unconstitutional were rewritten. This bill says if one piece of the initiative is unconstitutional, the whole kit and caboodle must be tossed out. Legislative attorneys have opined that SB 23 itself could present an unconstitutional restriction on Alaskans’ access to the initiative process.

3:30 p.m. - Senate Resources Committee - SB 97 STATE LAND SALES AND LEASES; RIVERS This bill increases the authority of DNR to lease and sell state land for commercial purposes. It follows a trend with Dunleavy bills to increase the power of DNR to do things unilaterally. We are told that the section of SB 97, which sought to repeal the legislatively designated Recreational Rivers protection for Mat-Su rivers, has proven too controversial and will be taken out of the bill.

Tuesday, April 20

10:15 a.m. - House Special Committee on Energy - HB 170 ENERGY INDEPENDENCE PROGRAM & FUND; AIDEA PUBLIC TESTIMONY - 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. It is a good idea, but there are many devilish details - such as: why put a clean energy function in AIDEA and not The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation or some other more trusted part of state government?

1:30 p.m. - House Finance Committee - American Rescue Plan Act Funding - The discussion on federal relief funding is sculpting the direction of this session, as legislators anticipate an influx of federal funds. You don’t hear much discussion of the General Obligation Bond bill this year, and new state revenue will predictably get punted down the road past the 2022 election.

3:30 p.m. - Senate State Affairs Committee - HB 39 BALLOT CUSTODY/TAMPERING VOTER REG;MAIL - PUBLIC TESTIMONY. This is “the voter suppression bill” that has gone undercover for some time. A new version of the bill was introduced on 4/15, which emphasizes something called “digital multi-factor authentication security identifiers,” which sounds like a term the paranoic sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick would use. The new bill is confusing and appears a little less bad but still bad. Expect talking points for public testimony early next week. Make a plan to provide public testimony.

Wednesday, April 21

1:30 p.m. - Senate Judiciary SB 82 ELECTIONS; ELECTION INVESTIGATIONS - Senate Judiciary is pure, terrifying entertainment, on the publics’ time. This bill creates a new duty for the State of Alaska to field “election fraud” complaints from a public whipped into a frenzy by folks like Chair Lora Reinbold, who specialize in perpetrating election fraud theories. It is truly the gift that goes on giving.

Thursday, April 22

9:15 a.m. House Special Committee on Energy - Presentation: Update on Electric Reliability Organization by Julie Estey, Chair, Railbelt Reliability Implementation Committee - The Electric Reliability Organization was created last session through legislation. It requires the utilities on the Railbelt to work together with stakeholder groups to make electric generation and transmission more efficient and hopefully less costly for consumers. Numerous stakeholders are represented on the implementation committee, and we hear there are politics at play with Railbelt utilities hoping to gain majority control of the organization. This hearing was rescheduled from a previous, canceled hearing when a renewable energy group was slated to give the same presentation. Now it appears that the utilities will be giving the presentation. Interesting stuff.

10:00 a.m. - House Special Committee on Fisheries - Presentation: AK-BC Transboundary Salmon Rivers Update by - Jill Weitz, Director, Salmon Beyond Borders - Chris Sergeant, Research Scientist, University of Montana Research Flathead Lake Biological Station - Our friends at Salmon Beyond Borders do consistent, high-quality, focused, and effective advocacy on the problem of BC mines current and proposed polluting rivers that flow into Alaska. Ultimately a federal to federal treaty relationship must be established to provide meaningful protections for Alaska’s salmon and people. 

3:30 p.m. - Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee - SJR 13 IMPROVE BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS - 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.

Friday, April 23 

1:00 p.m. - House Judiciary Committee - HB 174 INITIATIVE SEVERABILITY - PUBLIC TESTIMONY - This is the House companion to SB 23 discussed above. HB 174 is sponsored by the more moderate of the Republicans in the House - Reps. Merrick, Rasmusson, LeBon, and Cronk (sounds like a band name) and is supported by numerous extractive industry organizations who do not like spending money to battle citizen’s initiatives they don’t like. Why the House is plowing forward with this probably has most to do with keeping moderate Rs happy and productive-feeling. Legislative Legal has said that this proposal might be vulnerable to a challenge in court. Read the memo here. Plan to testify if you wish to help defend our tools of direct democracy from corporate interference.

1:30 p.m. - Senate Labor and Commerce - SB 17 ENERGY EFFICIENCY & POLICY; PUBLIC BLDGS - PUBLIC TESTIMONY - This bill, moving along at a relatively steady clip despite being carried by a member of the legislative minority (Sen. Tom Begich, who happens to excel at polite bipartisanship) attests to the soundness of the proposal: Increasing energy efficiency in buildings saves the state money.  

There are many many many more hearings of interest sandwiched into the next seven days. These are the ones that The Alaska Center will be watching. Please get in touch with us for more information on any and all of the bills and hearings listed here. 

Have a good week,    


Learn About the Bills We Are Watching

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