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Legislative briefs

Bill addresses handgun permit renewal

Alaska's concealed handgun permit holders won't have to surrender their permits after they expire under a bill the House passed unanimously Wednesday.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

The state doesn't require concealed handgun permits, but many gun owners get the $94 permits so they can legally carry their weapons in the 35 states that recognize Alaska permits. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Peters said there are 7,568 concealed handgun permits.

Starting in 2012, the bill also requires the department mail notices at least 90 days before the five-year permits expire.

The measure bars permit holders from representing expired permits as valid unless they've submitted timely renewals and the process was delayed for circumstances beyond their control.

-- The Associated Press

Additional-seats measure gaining ground

The measure calling for a ballot question and constitutional amendment to add 12 seats to Alaska's 60-seat Legislature appears to be making headway.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed its version of the measure Wednesday, while the House version gained eight cosponsors from both parties in the last two weeks.

The expansion is intended to ease redistricting after the 2010 Census count is in. Through redistricting, rural districts are expected to grow geographically while urban districts shrink to maintain roughly equal population representation. Over the years, the trend has made rural districts harder to manage. Sen. Albert Kookesh's is the most egregious example, covering about half the state's land area across nearly 1,000 miles.

-- The Associated Press

Energy trip may disrupt schedule

The halls of the state Capitol will be a little quieter next week, with 19 Alaska lawmakers expected to be in Washington for an annual meeting of the Energy Council.

The late-week trip will likely affect floor and committee schedules. Half the Senate's 20 members are expected to participate in the conference. On the House side, the majority press secretary said committee chairs will determine whether they want to change their schedules.

Several lawmakers on Tuesday defended their mid-session trip as important to their work in Juneau, given the importance of oil and gas in the state.

The Energy Council is comprised of 11 energy-producing states, five Canadian provinces and Venezuela.

The list of lawmakers provided are: Reps. Craig Johnson; Mark Neuman; Kyle Johansen; Anna Fairclough; Carl Gatto; Charisse Millett; Bryce Edgmon; Harry Crawford; and Scott Kawasaki. From the Senate: Sens. John Coghill; Johnny Ellis; Linda Menard; Lesil McGuire; Charlie Huggins; Bert Stedman; Joe Thomas; Thomas Wagoner; Fred Dyson; and Lyman Hoffman.

-- The Associated Press

DNA testing, bail discussed at hearings

Initiatives to give the wrongly imprisoned access to DNA testing and to toughen bail laws for defendants accused of serious crimes are under review in the Legislature.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings but took no action Wednesday on the two bills.

One sets out the process by which a prisoner may be able to use DNA testing to challenge a conviction. The other would make it tougher for a defendant awaiting trial for serious crimes or repeat offenses to be released.

The bills are part of Gov. Sean Parnell's crackdown on domestic violence and sexual assault. The package also includes a public education campaign and spending proposals for more village public safety officers and a crime lab.

-- The Associated Press

Students push for needs-based help

Student leaders from the Alaska university system are joining a chorus of legislators calling for a needs-based element in Gov. Sean Parnell's proposed merit scholarship plan.

Students from across the state testified in education committees and met with the University of Alaska Boosters Caucus this week. They shared stories of overcoming personal challenges and research on income disparities.

This came the same day the House Education Committee voted to address students with unmet financial needs in its version of the scholarship program.

Parnell's plan aims to take investment earnings off $400 million set aside to award scholarships for in-state tuition or professional training. Graduating Alaska high school students earning at least a C+ average and completing a rigorous course schedule would be eligible.

-- The Associated Press

Sexual assault gets protective orders

A bill adding sexual assault to the cases in which judges can issue protective orders in Alaska is on its way to Gov. Sean Parnell.

The Senate passed the measure Wednesday.

Current law allows for protective orders in domestic violence and stalking cases. This bill also extends that allowance to cases of sexual assault.

-- The Associated Press