HB 201, RESIDENCY REQ: HUNTING, TRAPPING AND FISHING
This week I introduced HB 201, RESIDENCY REQ: HUNTING, TRAPPING AND FISHING in response to concerns brought forward by Prince of Wales residents. This bill would bring the requirements to get a resident hunting, trapping and sport fishing license in line with what is required for someone to get a Permanent Fund Dividend. The goal with this legislation is to make the residency requirements for a hunting, trapping and sportfishing license slightly more stringent and more easily enforceable. I am looking forward to getting input on this legislation and modifying it as needed. Please do not hesitate to call or email with your feedback on the bill.
The Senate Passes, SB 52, EDU INFO; INCREASE BASE STUDENT ALLOCATION
On Thursday, May 11 the Senate passed SB 52, EDU INFO; INCREASE BASE STUDENT ALLOCATION by a vote of 16 Y to 3 N. This bill increases the Base Student Allocation (BSA) by $680. This is the largest increase in the BSA in state history and many senators gave some excellent explanations why this increase is needed. I encourage you watch the Senate Floor session where this bill was debated. As I have said before, an increase to the BSA is one of my top priorities and I am proud of what the Senate did. The bill has been referred to the House Finance committee where a companion version has been heard. It would be great if the House Finance Committee would pass the bill out and we could vote on it on the House floor before the end of session. If this is something you would like to see, please contact the House majority members.
The Legislature Passes SB 119, STATE IDENTIFICATION CARD FOR PRISONERS
I was excited that the legislature was able to pass SB 119, STATE IDENTIFICATION CARD FOR PRISONERS last week. While this makes a small change in state law, it is an important change and should be celebrated. Our prisoners need to have identification cards so that they have access to the most basic services when they are released.
SB 119 is also a good example of how the legislative process works. The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Senator Myers on March 31st. It was referred to the Senate State Affairs committee and passed out of the committee on May 3rd. It passed the Senate on May 10th and was referred to the House State Affairs committee.
Representative Gray had introduced a companion version of the bill back in early February and it had a hearing in the State Affairs Committee on March 16th. This meant that the Chair of the committee was comfortable holding a single hearing on the Senate version of the bill. The bill did not have a fiscal note because the ID cards can be made at no additional cost to the state, so SB 119 did not get referred to the Finance Committees.
The bill passed the House unanimously on May 13th and it now goes to the Governor for his signature.
Final Days of Session
As you may have heard, the House and Senate have not yet come to an agreement on the operating and capital budgets. The Senate Finance committee has been in possession of both the capital and operating budgets for some time now. This week they combined the budgets, and on Saturday, May 13, passed the omnibus budget from committee. It should be noted that this is not the typical process but has happened a couple of times in the past.
Normally, the House passes the operating budget, the Senate amends the budget and passes it back to the House. The House then does not concur with the changes the Senate made to the budget. The differences between the House and Senate version are then worked out in a conference committee made up of three members from each body. Typically, there is a similar process for the capital budget, except it usually originates in the Senate.
Not only is the budget process unusual this year, but the challenge of setting the size of the PFD remains problematic. The House version of the budget uses 50% of the percent of market value (POMV) revenues from the permanent fund for the dividend, equivalent to about $2,700. The Senate is calling for 25% of the POMV revenue to be used for the PFD. This is equivalent to a PFD of about $1,300. While a higher PFD is welcome, I can only support a dividend we can afford.
The Senate budget is balanced, while the House budget requires about a $600 million draw from savings. Not only are our savings very limited, but to draw from savings takes a three-quarters vote in both the House and Senate. The Senate has said they do not want to draw from savings and the House majority does not have enough votes to make this draw from savings.
Given the differences in the PFD amount in the budgets and the difficulty of drawing from savings, it is unclear whether both bodies can come to an agreement by the end of session. This is frustrating for all Alaskans. The last thing we want is a special session and the threat of a government shutdown.