May 31, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 23

Peggy's Corner of the House

Hello again. After a short break to visit family, I wanted to report, from my Corner of the House, on all the latest news. Between budgets, a special session, and redistricting, there’s a lot going on.

The best news is how well the Capital Budget came out. Because the legislature worked so carefully with the governor to keep expenditures at a reasonable level, there were very few vetoes. All the projects that are so critically needed in our District 2 communities can expect to get started, or at least be put out for bids, very soon.

The recent news from the Redistricting Board has kept some of us on pins and needles. For a few days it looked like District 2 would remain pretty much as it has been; with Petersburg, Sitka and Wrangell together, with the addition of some of the surrounding communities to the north and south. Then on May 22, the Supreme Court decided that the plan to be used for this year’s election will be the one adopted in April, which puts Petersburg with downtown Juneau and Wrangell with Ketchikan. This is all pretty frustrating for some legislators, including me, who aren’t sure where we’ll be campaigning this summer.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the governor called the legislature back into Special Session in April to deal with three issues: a sex trafficking bill, oil taxes, and an in-state gas line – all very important. The governor’s sex-trafficking bill, HB 359, passed quickly and easily. It’s a good bill that will help protect Alaska’s young women and men from being enticed into Anchorage and trapped in the sex trade.

On the governor’s proposal for a more equitable oil tax structure - unfortunately, we ended up making no progress. There are such differing visions about the best way to both incentivize companies to produce more oil and maximize revenues to the State of Alaska, that it seemed impossible to develop legislation that could pass both the House AND the Senate. After a few days of the special session, the governor realized that the Senate was not interested in doing the work to reach agreement on a tax structure that would work better than what we have now. He pulled the bill, and the issue will now have to be taken up next year by the 28th legislature.

The other issue was that of an in-state gas pipeline, that could help get some of our vast supply of natural gas delivered to the citizens of Alaska; many of whom are suffering from exorbitant fuel prices. Though the House leadership tried as hard as we could to convince the other body to consider HB 9, the Senate gaveled out without scheduling hearings in any committees. While I know that this issue isn’t as relevant to people in Southeast as it is in the interior, the way the Senate dealt with the proposed bill was an example of the frustrations we deal with in attempting to create legislation that truly helps Alaska’s people.

Every year, the State of Alaska auctions off state lands to Alaska residents. The Division of Mining, Land and Water has compiled an attractive assortment of parcels, including some in Southeast. More information can be found online by searching DNR Land Sales, or by calling 465-3400. The auction deadline is May 30.

Alaska Business Week is an educational and fun-filled week that happens on the UAF campus – July 14-21. High school students will practice running a business, develop leadership skills, earn college credits and have a lot of fun. The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce sponsors this camp, and scholarships are available. More information can be found online by searching for Alaska Business Week or by calling 474-4761. The first 100 students to apply by June 1st should be accepted.

That’s all for now from Peggy’s Corner of the House. I’ll talk to you again later this summer.

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