Legislative Briefs

March 23, 2010 

Senator seeks cruise plan details

Addressing an expected decline in Alaska cruise ship passengers goes deeper than reducing the state head tax on cruisers.

So says Senate Finance Committee co-chair Bert Stedman. The Republican from Sitka, which benefits from the cruise trade, says the economy and politics by the cruise ship industry are also factors that must be considered.

Stedman says there's interest by some in the industry to use Alaska as an example of what they don't want to see from "sovereigns" in terms of regulations and taxes.

Stedman's waiting for details from Gov. Sean Parnell on Parnell's plan to reduce the per-passenger tax by $11.50. Stedman says he's not sure a reduction would make much difference for someone paying $1,000 or more for a cruise.

However, he says he's glad to see interest in lowering the tax.

Legislators eye Anchorage space

Alaska lawmakers have authorized a bid to buy a Chevron Corp. building in Anchorage to secure more office space for themselves.

The six-story, 55,000-square-foot building -- valued at $1.8 million -- on West Ninth Avenue would replace 42,000 square feet of space the Legislature now leases on West Fourth Avenue. The building has housed Chevron's Unocal subsidiary.

It already houses 31 legislative offices.

Rep. John Harris, a Valdez Republican, the chairman of the legislative housekeeping panel that ordered a bid Monday, says the issue's not an "absolute urgency" since the Legislature has up to four years of lease renewal options on existing space. Bids are due April 2.

Review of Pebble requested

Two lawmakers have requested a study of the impacts of developing a world-class copper-and-gold prospect at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski and Rep. Bryce Edgmon asked the Legislative Council to provide funding for an independent, third-party review of the potential effects of the proposed Pebble mine. The request Tuesday comes after a joint legislative hearing last week and a request earlier this year by the Board of Fisheries.

Bristol Bay is home to a premier commercial sockeye salmon fishery. The board asked the Legislature to study permitting standards and environmental safeguards and to take steps it considers necessary to protect game and fish habitat.

The lawmakers say the study is key to addressing those concerns.

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