|Protecting Your Rights: Serving Sand Lake, Spenard, and Turnagain|
|April 15, 2017
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We’re in the last days of the 90-day legislative session and the House and Senate are picking up the pace as the deadline approaches. The legislature will likely go past the 90-day deadline as we work to finish as soon as possible. The budget remains our top priority and we’re committed to working together to create a responsible action plan for Alaska.
Budget: Revised Senate Bill 26 and House Bill 111
Two weeks ago, we reported on the two proposals for the Permanent Fund restructure. This week, we look at how the proposals have changed.
At the beginning of the year, the Alaska House Majority Coalition identified four pillars of a responsible action plan for Alaska: (1) structured use of the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve while protecting the Dividend, (2) reformation of the oil tax system (3) new revenue from a broad-based tax, and (4) smart budget cuts. Senate Bill 26 contains provisions for a sustainable draw from the Earnings Reserve and protects the Dividend, while House Bill 115 produces new revenue through a broad-based tax. House Bill 111 reforms subsidies to Alaska’s oil and gas industry.
The House Substitute for SB 26 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 22-18. Before passing the House, the House Finance Committee made substantial changes to the Senate’s version of the bill. These changes created a sustainable draw from the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund while still paying out Dividends and protecting the principal of the fund. The House made the following changes to the Senate version:
The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence. If the Senate does not accept the changes made in the House, a Conference Committee of members from both bodies will have the task of resolving the differences between the two versions.
House Bill 111, which we wrote about in February, was also revised by the House Finance Committee. The version that passed the House Resources Committee increased a company’s minimum tax rate from 4 percent to 5 percent, reduced the Net Operating Losses (NOL) credits, capped cash subsidy payments at $35 million per year and reduced the per-barrel tax credit. The House Finance Committee made further revisions to the bill. The new version restructured NOL credits by eliminating the credits for all North Slope production while maintaining the credits for the ‘Middle Earth’ area—the non-North Slope or Cook Inlet areas. The House Finance version also limits the companies to collecting the credits only for the field where they earn the credits. The revised bill lowers tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent when oil prices are under $160 per barrel. It also hardens the minimum tax floor by mandating that no credits can bring the tax rate below the current minimum production tax rate of 4 percent. Finally, the bill requires the taxpayers to disclose credit and lease expenditure reports to the Department of Natural Resources.
HB 111 as revised by the House Finance Committee increases state revenues by $100-200 million at oil prices between $40-100 per barrel. The House passed the bill on Tuesday by a vote of 21-19. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Eliminating Civil Settlement Reporting Requirements: House Bill 104
Earlier this week, the Senate voted unanimously to pass House Bill 104, which eliminates the requirement to report civil case settlements. The House Judiciary Committee introduced the legislation earlier this session.
In 1997, the legislature passed tort reform legislation. One part of the legislation required that the Alaska Judicial Council report on closed civil cases, using data from forms completed by attorneys and parties in the cases. Since then, as required by statute, the Judicial Council has collected data provided by attorneys and litigants and produced three reports. In its last report in November 2011, the Alaska Judicial Council reported that from January 2001 through December 2010, 88,873 cases resolved in the Alaska Court system were subject to the reporting requirement. Because each case had at least two parties, the Council should have received 177,746 or more reports. Unfortunately, the Council only received 23,257 reports, approximately 13 percent of the reports it should have received. The low response rate made the data collected unreliable for analysis.
Eliminating the reporting requirement has received support from attorneys and civil litigants. The existing reporting requirement was burden for those who adhered to it and unenforceable for those who didn’t. Preparation and filing of these forms imposes a financial cost on individual Alaskans and businesses with little public benefit.
House Bill 104 passed the Alaska State Senate by a unanimous vote. The bill unanimously passed the Alaska House of Representatives on February 27. HB 104 now goes to Governor Walker for his consideration.
32nd Annual Sham Jam
In March, our office staff, in collaboration with other Young Democrats in Juneau, planned and organized the 32nd annual Sham Rock’n’Roll party—lovingly nicknamed Sham Jam. Sham Jam is a long-standing event that offers legislative staff, legislators, and residents of Juneau an opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and give back to the local community. This year, we raised $4,375 for The Canvas, a community outreach organization under the non-profit REACH, that provides studio, pottery, and gallery facilities for adults with disabilities in the Juneau arts community.
Mark your calendar for these upcoming events:
Anchorage Senior Citizens Advisory Commission Survey
The Senior Citizens Advisory Council is asking for your help to measure the issues and concerns of Anchorage seniors. Your input will help the council to focus its policy concerns for the future. Take the survey here. The deadline for the survey is Thursday, April 21st at noon.
Alaska Historical Commission Meeting
When: Monday, April 24th from 9am to 11am.
Chester Creek Flooding Project - Open House
When: Wednesday, April 26th from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.
As always, please let us know if you have any question or concerns.
Rep. Matt Claman
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