On New Year's Day, five new Alaska laws went into effect, ranging from a bill to ease the crippling financial burden of new medications to treat life-threatening illnesses to a new process to allow owners of manufactured homes to categorize their house as real property. Some of the bills take effect outright on the first. Only sections of others are coming into play. Here's a quick summary:
• A streamlined process by which a community or private fuel retailer obtains state assistance for purchases will begin Jan. 1. Bulk fuel revolving and bridge loans will be handled by one agency, the Department of Community and Regional Affairs, and applicants will only need to submit one application to be considered for both programs. The legislation also adjusts the interest rates so that applicants with bad credit are no longer rewarded with a no-interest loan. Under the new framework, any first-time applicant will qualify for a zero percent loan. But the next time they need a loan, the rate jumps to 4 percent. However, if they are good customers and pay their balances on time, the higher rate will decrease by one percent in the third year, and another two percent in the fourth year.
• Several sections of Senate Bill 23, which deals with both film production incentives as well as oil and gas taxes and incentives, come on line on Jan. 1, including oil and gas production taxes and exploration credits. The legislation taking effect Jan. 1 imposes a 4 percent production tax rate on oil or gas for new development outside of the Cook Inlet and North Slope regions. The idea is to spur exploration in western and interior Alaska. It also offers investment tax credits of up to $25 million for exploration expenses related to putting in a well, and up to another $7.5 million for seismic work.
• Insurance companies will need to notify clients 90 days in advance if they plan to raise rates or require co-insurance fees for specialty medications used to treat serious and life- threatening diseases and conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The Alaska Legislature found many of the medicines used for these conditions are new, made in small quantities and have no generic alternative, driving up costs significantly. The 90-day notification window is intended to give patients time to deal with potential sticker shock, and discuss with their doctor other treatments if the one being prescribed is cost-prohibitive.
• Insurance coverage for children with autism spectrum disorders.
• The legislature created a way for owners of manufactured homes affixed to land to be converted to real property, and similarly, for homes being moved to be severed from property ownership. This new legislation is meant to give manufactured homeowners in Alaska the ability to access a wider range of financing options, as already comes with ownership of buildings constructed on land they may own.
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