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Juneau wrap-up, part 2: Lawmakers ban smoking in bars, other workplaces

Second of five parts

The Alaska Legislature passed dozens of bills in its final week in Juneau — including more than 20 on its last day alone.

The barrage of votes ran for more than 10 hours in both the House and Senate, making it difficult to keep track.

Now that the dust has settled on the session, we're looking back at some of the last-minute legislation you may have missed. Over the course of the week, we're examining bills that could affect Alaskans' day-to-day lives — where they smoke and drink, when they go to the doctor and how they pay for clean energy upgrades like solar panels.

We started with House Bill 123, which will require doctors and hospitals to post prices for their most commonly performed medical procedures.

Today, we're covering legislation to ban smoking inside bars and other businesses around the state.

Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon and Bethel Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman walk toward the Senate chambers earlier this month. (Nathaniel Herz / ADN)

The House and Senate, on the last day of the session, both approved Senate Bill 63, the proposal to ban smoking in Alaska bars, restaurants, offices and other workplaces.

Many Alaska cities and towns, like Anchorage, Juneau and Bethel, already ban smoking in those places. But others don't, like Fairbanks, Sitka and Kodiak.

The legislation was sponsored by Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche. If Walker signs it, will take effect Oct. 1, giving businesses four months to adjust.

Rick Heim, whose family owns the Pioneer Bar in Sitka, said the legislation will be a "double-edged sword." It will require adjustments from his customers who smoke — about half of them, he said — but also make it easier for others to visit who previously objected.

"We knew it was going to happen," Heim said in a phone interview. "It's probably going to be a good thing in the long run."

The House and Senate also approved separate legislation on the last day of the session, Senate Bill 15, to ban possession and sale of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, to people under 19 years old.

The bill, sponsored by Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens, would also sharply increase fines for selling or giving cigarettes and e-cigarettes to minors.

Tomorrow, we'll describe a bill that fixed a legal problem threatening to hinder the operations of Alaska's craft distilleries. Next, we'll cover a bill tightening a popular credit that allows corporations a generous tax write-off in exchange for donations to schools. Finally, we'll describe legislation to help customers of Alaska utilities borrow money for energy upgrades — like solar panels and natural gas heating equipment — and pay it back on their monthly bills.

One caveat: None of these bills have been signed by Gov. Bill Walker. But he has not publicly indicated opposition to any of them.

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