JUNEAU — Most lawmakers are arriving in Juneau this week, ahead of the start of the legislative session Jan. 15. Though the session hasn’t begun, lawmakers have begun filing legislation in advance. On Monday, the first day bills were released to the public, 38 bills and five proposed constitutional amendments were listed. Here’s a quick summary of each, sorted by subject:
Crime and courts
• The latest effort to repeal the criminal justice reform measure known as SB 91 is in House Bill 9, by Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton.
“It’s not a complete repeal, but it’s repealing a lot of it,” Rauscher said.
• Repeat drug offenders would face stricter penalties under House Bill 10, by Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage. If they are willing to seek treatment, they could avoid the harsher punishment.
“We’re not changing the law for first offenders, but if it’s a subsequent offense and a person does not participate in their own rehabilitation ... then that’s when the felony conviction of record would apply,” Kopp said.
• A person does not have to be a victim a second time to renew a lapsed protective order if House Bill 12, by Kopp, becomes law. This is intended to address a problem revealed by an August Supreme Court case. In that case, the judges said it was not clear whether the Legislature intended to allow multiple protective orders after a single violent incident.
• Knocking out someone or strangling them unconscious would be classified as first-degree assault, and ejaculating via masturbation on someone without their consent would count as third-degree sexual assault under House Bill 14, by Rep. John Lincoln, D-Kotzebue. This bill was submitted in response to a legal loophole that came under public scrutiny when an Anchorage man received a no-jail sentence after choking and masturbating on a woman. The bill also strengthens criminal penalties if strangulation is used in conjunction with other crimes. Senate Bill 12, by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, proposes the same thing in the Senate. Senate Bill 3, by Sen.-elect Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, offers an alternative strategy. It would make ejaculating via masturbation on someone without their consent a crime under the state’s anti-harassment law.
“That incident revealed a couple of different holes in the law,” Lincoln said.
• A first-time vehicle thief could be sentenced to more jail time than other first-time felons under House Bill 15, by Rep.-elect Zack Fields, D-Anchorage.
• All sexual assault evidence kits, also referred to as “rape kits," must be submitted for DNA or other testing within six months of the time they are collected if House Bill 20, by Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, becomes law.
• The court records of Alaskans convicted of marijuana possession would be kept confidential under Senate Bill 8, by Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage. (If they were also convicted of other crimes, those would still be public record.)
• The Fairbanks Four and other Alaskans who have their convictions overturned or reversed would have their Permanent Fund dividends retroactively paid under Senate Bill 9, by Kawasaki. According to state law and regulation, dividends may be garnished from those convicted of crimes in order to offset fees, fines or the cost of their incarceration. SB 9 would require the state to pay those garnished dividends if a conviction is overturned.
• Sex-ed classes would be required to teach that “abstinence from sexual activity (is) the preferred choice for unmarried students” and that “that the life of an unborn child begins at conception” under House Bill 7 by Rauscher. The bill also prohibits sex-ed teachers from instructing students how to use contraceptives, among other sections.
“The way the public school system promotes it, I’m not in belief that’s the proper way, so I’m wanting to at least get out there and talk about how this should be done,” he said.
• Elementary schools would include “early education” programs for children over 4 but younger than 5, the minimum to enter kindergarten, if Senate Bill 6, by Begich, becomes law.
• Schools can hire foreign-language and Native-language teachers who may not have a bachelor’s degree if House Bill 24, by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, becomes law.
• Any state income tax or state sales tax would have to be approved by voters if the constitutional amendment proposed under House Joint Resolution 1, by Rauscher, becomes law.
• The Alaska Legislature would be limited to a regular session of 90 days under the constitutional amendment proposed in House Joint Resolution 2, by Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage. (A state law implemented by a voter initiative says the session is 90 days, but a law cannot override the constitution, and the constitutional limit right now is 121 days.)
• The Permanent Fund dividend would be protected under the constitutional amendment proposed in Senate Joint Resolution 1, by Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage.
• The Legislature would be constitutionally limited in its ability to spend from the Alaska Permanent Fund’s earnings reserve if the constitutional amendment in Senate Joint Resolution 2, by Begich, is approved. Currently, only the Permanent Fund’s corpus is protected by the constitution; the investment earnings of that corpus can be spent by the Legislature with a simple majority vote.
• Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, has proposed making the attorney members of the Alaska Judicial Council subject to legislative confirmation. Senate Joint Resolution 3, if approved by the Legislature and voters, would give the Legislature more power over the body that recommends judicial candidates to the governor for approval.
• Alaskans could send their Permanent Fund dividend directly to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to buy state land if House Bill 3, by Rauscher, becomes law. That would effectively allow Alaskans to receive their dividend in land rather than cash. There is a discount on the price of land for veterans.
• The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. could manage the investments of Alaska municipalities if Senate Bill 5, by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, becomes law. The corporation would be required to file regular reports on the investments, the municipality would have to allow the corporation to manage them, and only municipalities with at least $50 million in assets would be allowed to participate.
• If Senate Bill 13 becomes law, anyone who was eligible for a Permanent Fund dividend in 2016, 2017 or 2018 will be paid a supplemental dividend equivalent to the difference between the statutory formula and the amount actually paid in those years. Wielechowski, the sponsor of the bill, estimates the supplemental dividend would be equal to $3,733 if someone was eligible for all three years.
• If you brandish your gun or say you have a gun in order to dissuade someone, you can’t be charged with assault or reckless endangerment if House Bill 4, by Rauscher, becomes law. Alaska’s assault and reckless endangerment laws say you commit those crimes if you “place another person in fear of death or serious physical injury,” but HB 4 adds an exception to those crimes for “defensive display of a firearm.”
“This covers you for where you felt threatened and you wanted to have it on you and you wanted to have it in your hand,” Rauscher said.
He added that he intends for the law to apply only to private property. The text of the bill does not include that restriction.
• Alaskans receiving care in their homes instead of in a nursing home or other medical facility would be protected by new rules under House Bill 1, by Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer. Johnson’s bill proposes a new regulatory board in charge of drafting regulations for companies that provide in-home care. The bill also includes some laws for those companies to follow.
• State medical insurance programs won’t cover gender reassignment surgery if House Bill 5, by Rauscher, enters law. The AlaskaCare program that insures state employees already does not cover such surgery, but that exclusion is the subject of a lawsuit that calls the exclusion discriminatory. Court documents show the lawsuit is still ongoing.
Rauscher said he did not have the lawsuit in mind when he wrote the bill. He was instead thinking of prison health care.
“It’s just something our state can’t afford right now,” he said.
• The state must ask the federal government for permission to require Medicaid recipients to work in order to get benefits, if House Bill 13, by Kopp, becomes law. Micciche has proposed the same thing in Senate Bill 7.
• The Certificate of Need program, which allows the state to regulate the number of clinics and hospitals offering specific services, would abolished by Senate Bill 1, from Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, and House Bill 17 by Rauscher.
• Health care insurance must cover contraceptives if House Bill 21, by Claman, becomes law.
• The Legislature would be moved to Anchorage under House Bill 2, by Rauscher.
“It’s constituents I’m worried about. I want to be able to talk to people, and I want them to be able to talk to me,” he said.
• Police officers would be eligible for a state pension program (instead of the current 401(k)-style state retirement system) if House Bill 11, by Rauscher, becomes law. Police departments and Alaska State Troopers have requested this legislation in order to retain new hires, and former Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, proposed it last year.
• Longtime nonunion public employees would receive fewer raises if House Bill 18, by Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, becomes law. According to the bill, someone who has maxed out their step increases would receive a raise for two, four, nine and 13 years of service at that step, instead of every two years.
Taxes and revenue
• If Senate Bill 14 by Wielechowski becomes law, the state’s per-barrel tax credit subsidy program for oil and gas drillers would end.
Administration and regulations
• Under House Bill 6, the state and national mottos would need to be displayed in every public building, every public school classroom and every public school library if someone donates money to pay for their display. This proposed law, by Rauscher, is similar to the national “In God We Trust America" campaign, but Rauscher said it is unrelated. HB 6 also states that if someone sues to take down the display, the Alaska Department of Law must defend it.
• If you dig a hole and have all the proper permits and made the proper notifications, you can’t be held civilly liable if your digging breaks something underground, assuming House Bill 8, by Claman, becomes law.
• The state would create special license plates for combat veterans, not just veterans, under Senate Bill 2 by Stevens.
• The Alaska Highway bridge over the Tok River would be named the Scott Johnson Memorial Bridge if Senate Bill 4, by Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, becomes law. Johnson was one of two state troopers shot and killed by a Tanana man in 2014.
• A water taxi would not qualify as one of the “transportation services” regulated in Alaska’s hunting laws if House Bill 19, by Knopp, becomes law.
• The state suicide prevention council will keep working through 2027 if House Bill 22, by Tarr, becomes law. Its legal authorization ends this year. Kawasaki has proposed Senate Bill 10, which would do the same thing.
• Snowmachine registration fees change under House Bill 23, by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake.
• The state would report the number of temporary occupational licenses issued to military spouses and other information about that temporary license program if Senate Bill 11, by Kawasaki, becomes law.
• Farmers, growers and ranchers who sell food directly to consumers are not covered by most state food safety laws as long as they don’t use a state-regulated processing plant, under House Bill 16 by Tarr.