|Protecting Your Rights: Serving Sand Lake, Spenard, and Turnagain|
April 19, 2016
Positive Moves by the Legislature
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The voter mandated last day of session (90 days) has come and gone and the Legislature is now in overtime. Although we worked past midnight on Sunday passing bills, the budget remains incomplete. The state still faces a $4.1 billion deficit and we need a responsible action plan for Alaska. Separate from major pieces of legislation, like the budget and revenue generating bills, several good pieces of legislation passed the House and Senate this session. As we continue discussions about the budget and a responsible action plan for Alaska, please feel free to contact my office at (907) 465-4919.
Bills that Passed:
Medicaid reform (SB 74) was a critical piece of legislation that passed the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk. This bill could save the state $365 million in its first 6 years. The bill will also improve health outcomes in rural areas across the State, help reduce fraud in our Medicaid system, and help fight opioid abuse.
Earlier this session, we approved Senator Ellis’ SB 23, which has now been signed into law by Governor Walker. It allows Alaskans to obtain the lifesaving drug that revives an individual suffering from a heroin overdose. This medicine keeps a person’s heart from stopping after they have overdosed on an opioid drug.
National Guard reform (HB 126) finally passed the Senate on Sunday night. The bill adopts a Military Code of Justice for Alaska and is a response to sexual assaults and problems at the top levels of the Alaska National Guard. The bill provides a framework of processes and consequences for members of the Alaska National Guard who violate military rules and orders. We worked hard on this bill early in the legislative session in the House Judiciary Committee and I am pleased that it finally made it through the legislative process.
As an honor to my late friend and colleague, Representative Gruenberg, the House and Senate passed HB 147. This bill allows the courts to consider the well-being of pets in divorce proceedings, creates statutory protections for animals in protective orders, allows a court to grant temporary custody of a pet to the victim seeking protection, and holds a pet owner responsible for the costs of caring for an animal that is seized due to neglect or cruelty. I am pleased to see this bill become law.
A resolution to improve student loan options passed the House and Senate Sunday that will be on the ballot in the November election. SJR 2 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the use of General Obligation (G.O.) bonds for the Alaska Student Loan Corporation. The goal is to lower interest rates for student loans and make higher education more affordable for Alaskans.
Lastly, SB 121 passed the House and Senate Sunday night. This bill follows a recent Anchorage Municipal ordinance to fine ($500) first-time texting while driving offenders that do not involve physical injury or death. It’s challenging to prosecute someone with a misdemeanor who is found texting while driving because the evidence is difficult to obtain. A violation is a swifter and more concrete deterrent to that action. Similarly to the criminal justice reform efforts, this bill seeks to increase public safety by smartly addressing criminal offenses.
Included in the bills that have failed to pass the Legislature so far are SB 174 that would allow concealed weapons on University of Alaska Campuses. Additionally HB 156, which incorporated parts of Senator Dunleavy’s SB 89 that would require school boards to vet sex education teachers and curriculum, has also failed to pass the Legislature this session.
As the session continues on, please feel free to contact me with any suggestions or concerns.
Rep. Matt Claman
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