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30th Alaska State Legislature Comes to a Close

 

 

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Rep. Wool taking a walk in downtown Juneau with Reps. Edgmon, Zulkosky, and Grenn after the adjournment of this year's legislative session. 
 

 

Distilleries, Roadhouses and Other Alcohol Updates


As many of you know, this session led to some controversial conversations  regarding distilleries and breweries, as well as many other topics in the alcohol industry. Many of these conversations centered around the Title IV bill, Senate Bill 76, which was not passed this session. However, legislation was passed with allows for distilleries to make mixed drinks (this was the same language that was in House Bill 269,) and my bill to grandfather in Alaska's historic roadhouses (House Bill 301) was also passed. To see a brief explanation of why Senate Bill 76 did not pass, and how these changes happened, please read more at the bottom of this newsletter. 
 

 

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Rep. Wool enjoying a visit from musher Deedee Jonrowe to the Alaska State Capital in May. 

 

 

My Legislation Passed this Session
 

The roadhouse bill wasn't the only bill of mine that made it through the process this session. Two of my other pieces of personal legislation, relating to on-bill financing and medical transport for Medicaid patients, also made their way through the legislative process. 

House Bill 374 - On-Bill Financing 
This bill will allow a utility to voluntarily create an “on-bill financing” program to help customers finance energy improvements. This legislation is important for the Interior Energy Project – it will provide a low-cost financing option for Fairbanksans to convert from oil to natural gas to heat their homes. An on-bill financing program allows a utility customer to borrow money for an energy improvement and then repay it through a line item on their utility bill. The utility can choose whether or not to create an on-bill program, and what types of energy improvements would qualify for financing. A customer’s utility bill could be immediately lower even with the extra finance charge due to savings in energy costs realized from increased efficiency. One of the purposes of this bill was to encourage residents in Fairbanks to convert from oil to natural gas, but other qualifying energy improvements could include adding solar panels, installing an energy storage device, or purchasing a heat pump or other such device. 
 
House Bill 176 – Supplemental Medicaid Payments to Emergency Transport Providers
I am proud to announce that both the House and the Senate have passed House Bill 176, which would use a supplemental reimbursement of Federal Medicaid dollars to help offset the cost for ambulance transport of Medicaid patients by public providers such as fire departments. This bill is predicted to bring an extra $14 million of federal funds into our communities. The timing could not be better – public safety funding in Alaskan communities is currently stretched thin. The legislation will cost the State nothing – administrative costs are borne 50% by the providers and 50% by the federal government. I look forward to seeing the Governor sign this important piece of legislation into law. 

 

 

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State Operating Budget Supports University of Alaska 

 I am happy to announce that the Operating Budget negotiations for the University of Alaska budget are complete. After the House voted to add $19 million to the Governor's request for the UA budget, the Senate came back with a $5 million increase over the Governor's request. The conference committee has decided to compromise at a $10 million increase for the UA system.

This allows the University to continue investing in their academic programs and world class research, and represents a significant improvement in the funding of UAF and the entire UA system. I was proud this session to offer my continued support of the University by offering the original $19 million amendment in the House Finance Subcommittee, which ended up being an important number in the final negotiations. 

 

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The Creamer's Field farmhouse alongside the iconic Sandhill Crane.

 

Creamer's Field Controversy
 

Just before the end of session, the Senate voted to amend House Bill 130 to add the words "hunting preserve" to the title of Creamer's Field and 15 other game refuges across the State. I opposed these changes, as I think they run counter to both the intended and actual use of Creamer's Field. While I in no way wish to abridge the hunting activity that already happens at Creamer's, I don't think  this needs to be in the title. Creamer's Field is primarily a place for wildlife viewing, and of course a wonderful place to take your kids in the summer for Camp Habitat. You can read more about opposition to this change at this link: http://www.newsminer.com/opinion/community_perspectives/an-open-letter-to-senators-coghill-kelly-bishop-and-other/article_278c1cfa-492f-11e8-bfaa-7759e547ecf9.html.

This bill ended up coming back to the House Floor for a concurrence vote, where the motion to hear the bill was voted down 20 votes to 20 votes. While this was a very close vote, I supported not hearing the bill. The "hunting preserve" language change was made in the Senate with very little public input and on short notice, and I think it was important that it not pass through this time. 

For a more thorough synopsis of what happened with this bill, check out this story from Dermot Cole: http://www.newsminer.com/news/dermot_cole/creamer-s-field-survives-senate-attempt-to-fix-imaginary-problem/article_5d660648-5987-11e8-84bb-1bdf48b8fb12.htmll  

 

Other Bills Passed at the Close of Session 


Senate Bill 45: Regulation of Unlicensed Contractors 
This bill will require that unlicensed contractors disclose they don’t have a license if they sell a home within two years after construction begins.  This provides consumers with more information as well as protection when they are purchasing a new home. This was also the bill that the language on distilleries was added to at the end of session. 

Senate Bill 63:  Smoke free workplaces 
This bill establishes smoke free indoor workplaces across the State of Alaska. Over 1,000 business and organizations had signed a resolution of support for this effort, and I am excited to see that this bill has finally passed. The final version includes a local opt-out option as well as allowing for onsite consumption for marijuana establishments. These provisions were important in ensuring that this important bill to protect public health was passed. 

Capital Budget Approved 
This year's Capital Budget appropriates $148.6 million in Unrestricted General Funds for Capital improvements, which allows the State to gain a total of $1.1 billion in federal funds. Some highlights of this year's Capital Budget include the following:

  • University of Alaska: $2 million for deffered maintenance;
  • K-12: An additional $20 million in education funding for FY 19; 
  • Pre-Kindergarten Grants: $3 million for FY 19 and another $3 million for FY 20;
  • Medicaid: $28 million for Medicaid services;
  • Community Assistance grants: $4 million;
  • Substance Use Disorder Treatment: $12 million to focus on the opioid epidemic;
  • Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Analysis and Storage Equipment: $2.75 million to address the backlog of untested rape kits from victims of sexual assault. 

 

Distilleries, Roadhouses, and Other Alcohol Updates
continued from above


Senate Bill 76 bill was controversial and changes were made to it  in committee which were also controversial. Since it was a Senate bill, it had to first makes its way through three committees on the Senate side, where it was amended in each committee. After passing the Senate late in the session, the House got the bill. Due to the end of session rapidly approaching, the bill was referred to only two committees. This made work on the bill challenging, as there was very little time left to work on it. In the Senate Labor and Commerce committee, for example, the bill sat for eight weeks without action being taken. 

On the Senate side some portions were taken out of the original bill that caused concern for some in the industry. Namely, the 80/20 rule for manufacturers was removed.  There were also some things added that caused concern, including the 3 strikes rule against license holders. It was felt by several House members, including myself, that these issues would need to be addressed when the House received the bill.

In the House Labor and Commerce committee, we tried to reach compromise on SB 76 by adding some things (language allowing the mixing of cocktails and limitations on sampling sizes) and by taking some items out (the 3 strike rule). This is the normal process for legislation. Even though it was late in the session this part of the process is never waived.  In reality, the bill really should have had two more committees of referral in the House where things could have been added or taken away as those committee saw fit. Therefore, these amendments were added with the knowledge that SB 76 was likely not going to pass. Again, this is all part of the process, which involves discussion and evaluation through many committees. But we ran out of time. 

On the House Floor last week, we knew that the language allowing distilleries to mix cocktails needed to be added to some legislation before session ended, as this was extremely well supported. While other parts of SB 76 remained contentious, we were able to include this provision on another bill before the end of session. 

I am glad there is now more time to work on Title IV. I have heard from many people that I am too involved personally in the industry to be working on this issue. Perhaps this is true.  Many legislators have experience in certain fields and use that experience to help them and others, but as I am still in the industry I recognize that this may be a problem. I know in the past certain legislators working in the oil industry have been involved in oil legislation and that was controversial. I know I can learn from this experience and perhaps take a step back. 

On a lighter note, my bill (House Bill 301,) which allows Alaska's historic roadhouses to renew their licsences, was passed by the House Floor. This was a bill we had worked on throughout session and I was pleased to see it pass. Now, well-loved businesses in Fairbanks and across Alaska such as the Howling Dog, Chatanika Lodge, and The Malemute Saloon can stay open for business.

Once again, I want to thank everyone who shared their perspective on these issues. I am happy that we have found a positive step forward. 


As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have and I will do my best to respond. Thanks so much for all the input this session and I look forward to seeing many of you around town this summer. 

Best Wishes, 

 

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MY OFFICE

SESSION
State Capitol Bldg. Room 412
Juneau, AK 99801
(907) 465-4976

INTERIM
1292 Sadler Way
(AlaskaUSA Credit Building)
Fairbanks, AK 99701
(907) 452-6084

Rep.Adam.Wool@akleg.gov
http://www.repadamwool.com/

Ashley Strauch - Legislative Aide
(907) 465-4976

Ashley.Strauch@akleg.gov

Laura Stidolph - Legislative Aide
(907) 465-6879

Laura.Stidolph@akleg.gov

 

FAIRBANKS - DISTRICT 5

Geist, College, Chena Ridge, Chena Pump, Cripple Creek, UAF Campus, Richardson, and Parks Highway.
 

CONTACT THE GOVERNOR

675 7th Avenue, Suite H5
Fairbanks, AK 99701-4596
T (907) 451-2920 F (907) 451-2858
EMAIL: 
Governor Bill Walker

STATE of ALASKA
http://alaska.gov/
State Info (907) 269-5111

 

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