Alaska News

Guns on campus, alcohol bills among those still in legislative limbo

Whether by inaction or late-night political maneuvering, a bevy of bills have stalled or died in the Alaska Legislature as lawmakers head into overtime.

Leadership in both parties say they plan to focus exclusively on a half-dozen bills from here on out, including oil tax credits and criminal justice reform.

At least for now, here's the status of a few other unresolved bills:

Guns on campus stalled

Senate Bill 174, which would allow concealed weapons on University of Alaska campuses, is stuck in the House Finance Committee.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, landed in the committee Thursday. Ever since, lawmakers there have been loaded down with deficit-reduction bills, said a committee co-chair, Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks.

"We haven't gotten to it," Thompson said. He said he still planned to hold a hearing on the bill, but wouldn't say when.

Sex ed holds up statewide testing bill

New sex education requirements tripped up what started out as a bill on local control and statewide testing in the House.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, pushed for language to be added to the bill that would require school boards to vet sex ed teachers and curriculum.

Early Monday morning, the House narrowly rejected Dunleavy's changes to House Bill 156, 20-19.

The measure, sponsored by another Wasilla Republican, Rep. Wes Keller, now heads back to the Senate. If senators don't accept the House version, the two chambers can go to a conference committee, said Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, chairman of the House Rules Committee.

"To say (HB 156) is dead is not accurate," Johnson said. "To say it's on life support might be."

As of Monday afternoon, Dunleavy wasn't optimistic.

"I think it's probably done," he said in an interview.

Alcohol laws for minors in limbo

Senate Bill 165, which would reduce penalties for underage consumption of alcohol, restructure the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and establish background checks for marijuana business applicants, seemed poised to breeze through the House on Sunday night.

Then, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, tried to roll in a separate bill to add a manicurist to the state Board of Barbers and Hairdressers.

Earlier in the day, LeDoux's original hairdressers' bill, House Bill 289, had been injected with the entire contents of a separate bill relating to eye care by Senate Finance Committee co-chair Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River.

Though several lawmakers protested late Sunday that LeDoux's legislation didn't belong in SB 165, since it largely dealt with alcohol laws, the House approved the change 37-2. LeDoux said her bill was topical because it also dealt with a change to a state regulatory board.

But the Senate rejected the House's changes, 18-0.

"We had a message from legal that the bill didn't meet the 'single subject rule,' " Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said in a phone interview Monday morning as he was packing up his car on the ferry out of Juneau.

Smoke-free workplace bill dies

In another twist of drama between LeDoux and Micciche, the Senate early Monday morning tried to attach a Micciche bill creating a statewide indoor smoking ban to LeDoux's already-expanded barbers and hairdressers bill.

Micciche's smoking bill, Senate Bill 1, had stalled in LeDoux's House Judiciary Committee, with LeDoux refusing to schedule a hearing on it.

"This has been the first time that I've been frustrated that a policy that has been so heavily supported has essentially been ceased by one person," Micciche said during the early Monday morning floor session.

After the Senate added in Micciche's legislation, LeDoux responded by withdrawing her barbers bill entirely, effectively killing off the smoke-free workplace legislation.

LeDoux said she stopped SB 1 because she thinks smoking bans should be decided at the local level. Asked why she hadn't moved the measure forward for a vote, she said: "Not everything goes to a vote around here."

Micciche had been working his legislation all night Sunday into Monday morning, pacing back and forth between the House and Senate. He said he'd offered to withdraw the contentious eye care provisions from the amended hairdressers bill and to adjust the anti-smoking legislation to satisfy LeDoux.

"We laid out all the potential options we could change," Micciche said. "She just never came clear about the changes she wanted."

Nathaniel Herz contributed to this story.

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