Hello again from the Capital. We’ve now completed the first thirty days of the session. There’s a lot to be done yet, and I’m concerned about whether we’ll get all the important legislation accomplished. These ninety-day sessions are a real stretch.
The week began with a rush and ended with a new piece of legislation being introduced that will be of great interest to District 2. I have joined with a group of coastal legislators in introducing Coastal Management Program (ACMP) legislation, House Bill 235, to recreate a coastal zone management program for Alaska. We are the only maritime state without such a program, and I believe that it severely limits our voice at the federal level when coastal lands and water development are discussed. This legislation will go a long way to ensure that Alaska's future development is decided by people who care about protecting our state's interests and values - Alaskans.
When Alaska lost its coastal management program in the 2011 legislative session, we lost an important tool for influencing and shaping coastal development. This new legislation is essentially the same as the initiative that has been approved for the August ballot. I know legislators will be mindful that it needs to be “substantially” the same as the ballot initiative in order to replace that initiative, and I believe it will only change for the better as it goes through the committee review process.
One thing that we need to keep in mind is - the initiative, as it stands, creates another level to the permitting process which we don’t want and don’t need for good environmentally responsible resource development. Hopefully, in the end, what we see is that the ACMP assists the permit requestor by coordinating the permitting process - without requiring any additional steps - so that it is as smooth and clear to follow as possible.
We in southeast have some very good reasons to be interested in this legislation;
· It gives Alaskans a meaningful voice in coastal development.
· It balances competing demands on coastal resources and uses.
· It gives Alaska a powerful voice in federal coastal development decisions.
· It establishes a coordinated permit review process.
· It reduces bureaucracy by creating a one-stop permitting source in Alaska.
I think the fact that the ACMP initiative was validated by enough signatures to go on the ballot will give coastal communities the leverage they need to get this bill passed through the legislature. I plan to keep you all updated as this bill passes through both bodies and becomes law.
Three of my bills were heard and passed out of committees all within one hour on Monday. House Bill 216, which will make state regulations understandable, was heard for the fourth time in the Judiciary committee and now goes to Finance.
HCR 20 passed the Senate Health and Social Services committee, and is on its way to the Senate Floor. And HJR 26, the Sea Otter bill, passed out of House Resources on its way to the House Floor.
Another piece of exciting news is that HR 7, the “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012”, passed the US House of Representatives, including opening a very small portion of the ANWR (Alaska National Wildlife Refuge) for oil and gas development. Input from Alaska House members was critical in educating congressmen about how well Alaska takes care of our environment.
That’s the news for this week. Don’t be afraid to call my office if you have input on any of this legislation. We love to hear from you.