While legislative squabbling over budgets and permanent fund dividends has consumed much of our time, we managed to pass a couple Bills addressing economic growth. Many more Bills have been authored that I hope will pass in the second regular legislative session, and a few that I hope do not! At the time of publication, there are more than 280 Bills authored in the House. Below are some that I want to highlight.
HB 9, HB 37, HB 214, SB 100, SB 154, and SB 3005 Income Tax legislation.
While our public sector economy has thrived during the covid19 crisis, our private sector hasn’t been so fortunate. Economic recovery and private sector job growth will be hindered by any of the half a dozen proposals to institute a state income tax. I oppose all attempts to create a progressive income tax.
HB 22 “An Act relating to shared animal ownership; and relating to the sharing of raw milk and raw milk products.”
I co-sponsored HB 22 which legalized herd share programs enabling small farm businesses to sell raw milk and raw milk products. This bill promoted locally produced food and improved Alaska’s food security. The Bill was signed into law by Governor Dunleavy on Aug. 16, 2021.
HB 32 “An Act providing civil immunity to recreational vehicle park owners for certain damages; and providing civil immunity from liability related to the inherent risks of camping.”
I support HB 32 because it provides small business owners protection from frivolous lawsuits. There are some 152 R.V. park owners throughout Alaska and this Bill provides immunity from civil liability related to the inherent risks found in nature but requires reasonable care on the owner’s part to identify hazards on the owner’s property with signs or warnings provided in written contracts. Immunity from civil liability doesn’t apply in the event of owner negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct, or failure to provide adequate signage or warnings in written contracts.
HB 33 “An Act relating to penalties for discharges of oil and other pollution violations…”
I oppose HB 33 because it raises existing penalties on private businesses that will do little to prevent pollution that existing penalties don’t already do. Existing penalties already grow with inflation. This Bill proposes to raise those penalties excessively with two, four, and fivefold increases.
HB 36 “An Act relating to an application for a license to operate as a dealer in motor vehicles… requiring a dealer in motor vehicles to maintain liability and property insurance.”
I opposed the bill on grounds that it made government more intrusive into private business by adding requirements on small automobile dealership firms. The Bill doubled the required surety bond amount to $100,000 making it harder for small businesses to enter the marketplace. The Bill also made receiving a dealer registration contingent upon obtaining liability and property insurance. Liability and property insurance may be a wise business practice, but the additional overhead isn’t necessary if a small business has a seasonal operation and isn’t actively selling automobiles all the time. This insurance requirement is particularly egregious because it treats automobile dealerships differently than other Alaska businesses who aren’t required to obtain liability or property insurance as a condition to do business. This bill was signed into law by Governor Dunleavy on August 16, 2021.
HB 52 “An Act providing that operation of the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery in Kachemak Bay is compatible with the functions of Kachemak Bay State Park…”
I am a co-sponsor on HB 52 which seeks to save Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery by providing a land swap in the Kachemak Bay State Park with other state lands. Tutka Bay Hatchery has been in operation since the late 1970’s and is permitted to incubate up to 125 million pink salmon eggs and supports sockeye salmon production at Trail Lakes Hatchery for the lower Cook Inlet stocking sites. It is a vital part of Alaska’s $600 million in annual economic activity connected to salmon hatchery production. Alaska’s salmon hatcheries account for the annual equivalent of nearly 5,000 jobs and $218 million in total labor income, including all direct, indirect, and induced economic impacts.
HB 64 “An Act relating to regional fishery development associations; and relating to developing fishery management assessments.”
I support HB 64 because I think it is necessary to help expand our fisheries industry which will help create wealth for business owners, provide jobs for Alaskans, and additional revenue to the state. This Bill will allow fisherman, businesses, and other stakeholders in a developing fishery to form a regional fishery development association. The members of the association would be authorized to establish a landing tax and provide revenue to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to conduct surveys specific to that fishery. Currently, this mechanism is successfully used only within dive fisheries in Alaska.
HB 79 “An Act relating to sport fishing operators and sport fishing guides…”
I support HB 79 because I believe it will improve data collection through the logbook reporting requirements and will result in better understanding of our fisheries resource.
HB 81 “An Act relating to the modification of a royalty or net profit share in an oil and gas or gas only lease.”
I support HB 81 because I believe it will result in extended life and production from some of our aging oil and gas wells. The Bill enables the Department of Natural Resources to make royalty or net profit share modifications on a case-by-case basis, without which, producers will be faced with production costs that are no longer economically feasible and will shut in the wells. HB 81 is protecting Alaskan jobs and state revenue.