JUNEAU — The Alaska State Fair is among 11 businesses statewide that have caught a break on their liquor licenses, courtesy of late action by the Alaska Legislature.
Among the usual flurry of legislation at the end of the regular session, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 16, which allows the state fair in Palmer, plus 10 other businesses using so-called “recreational site licenses," to keep serving alcohol. Legislative audits in 2014 and 2017 found the fair and other businesses that have those licenses aren’t actually permitted under state law, even though many have had them for decades. SB 16 grandfathers those businesses and allows Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Area to receive one as well.
“This bill kind of started out as a way to help the Alaska State Fair continue to operate as they have since 1981,” said Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna. “There were many other businesses that were also affected.”
The bill received final confirmation from the Senate minutes before lawmakers ended the regular session.
Thirty bills passed both House and Senate during the regular session. The governor has signed four of those (funding for earthquake recovery, two renaming bridges, and adding superior court judges in Homer and Valdez); the remaining 26 need the governor’s approval to become law.
With at least four bills expected to pass the Legislature during special session this year, 2019 is expected to have the second-fewest pieces of legislation passed in a single year since statehood.
In 2017, 26 bills passed the Legislature during the regular session, according to the Legislature’s research library. The record-setting four special sessions that year saw lawmakers pass six more bills.
Crime and courts
• Sexual assault and stalking victims can request an extension of a protective order 30 days before or within 60 days after it expires; existing law requires a second alleged crime in order to receive another protective order. (HB 12)
• With House Bill 14, lawmakers fixed the sexual assault and plea deal loophole that led voters to dismiss an Anchorage judge after the sentencing of former air-traffic controller Justin Scott Schneider, who violently attacked a woman and then sexually assaulted her. The bill changes the definition of “sexual contact” in state law to include “knowingly causing the victim to come into contact with semen.” It makes strangling someone unconscious a first-degree assault, allows more serious punishments for other crimes involving strangulation, and it alters the way the state grants prison credit for time spent on electronic monitoring.
• The district court judgeships in Homer and Valdez are turned into superior court judgeships. (SB 41)
• The state’s health insurance laws are updated to follow model legislation from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (HB 78)
• A fee-funded program that buys vaccines in bulk is made permanent instead of expiring in 2021. (SB 37)
• The state medical board can make regulations that allow physicians’ assistants (not just physicians, as under prior law) to diagnose, prescribe medicine and treat patients by teleconference without a physical exam. (SB 44)
• If an injured fisherman files for compensation from the state fund for injured fishermen and also files a claim against the fishing boat owner’s insurance, the boat owner can seek to have their insurance deductible paid from the compensation fund as well, up to $5,000. (SB 61)
• The state’s student-loan repayment incentive program for health care workers is replaced with one that isn’t funded by the state: Employers, local governments, philanthropic groups and others can contribute to the program to encourage working in Alaska. (SB 93)
• With SB 89, the Legislature rolls back conflict-of-interest restrictions it placed on itself last year. The new legislation removes a requirement that lawmakers declare a conflict if they or an immediate family member received more than $10,000 in income from someone affected by a particular piece of legislation.
Finance and budgets
• A person can sell up to five homes and provide financing for the buyer without having a mortgage loan originator license. Previously, the limit was two, under certain circumstances. (HB 104)
• A driver can get a commercial driver’s license at age 18, instead of age 19. Federal law still prohibits a driver under 21 from trucking across state lines. Alaskans aged 18-21 will be able to drive a truck commercially only in Alaska until the federal law is changed. (SB 75)
• Governors can no longer create high-paid “temporary exempt” positions outside the normal state salary schedule, and within 60 days, the governor must report the number, names and salaries of such positions that already exist. (HB 48)
• Characterized as “deregulation light" by its sponsor, Sen. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, Senate Bill 83 repeals some of the state’s rules for telecommunications companies, including the law that requires a company to provide telephone service to a customer even if it is not profitable. SB 83 also levies fees on municipally owned telecommunications companies and telecom cooperatives, according to an explanation of the bill by Birch’s office.
• A hydroelectric dam can be built in Southwest Alaska’s Wood-Tikchik State Park. (SB 91)
Honors and recognitions
• Two Interior Alaska bridges were named in honor of Alaska State Troopers Gabe Rich and Scott Johnson, who were killed in 2014 in Tanana. Last week, the governor signed House bills 34 and 88 to rename the bridges.
• A building at the vocational training center in Seward is named in honor of Willard E. Dunham. (SB 100)
Boards, commissions and revisions
• The Legislature renews the state suicide prevention council (SB 10), board of dental examiners (SB 25), board of marine pilots (SB 29), board of nursing (SB 36), and the boards of barbers/hairdressers and big game commercial services (SB 43). The latter bill also requires the state to revoke someone’s master guide-outfitter license if they are convicted of a hunting violation in any state or Canada.
• The Legislature also passed its biennial revisor’s bill (SB 71) to correct technical and grammatical errors in state statute.
Correction: The Legislature passed 30 bills, not 29. Senate Bill 78, Katie John Day, was not correctly listed in the Legislature’s bill tracking system. The error was noticed by the bill’s sponsor after the publication of this article and has been corrected.