Small-business association also opposing proposed contraception mandate
NFIB/Alaska State Director Denny DeWitt’s report from the State Capitol for the legislative week ending February 10.
The Legislature is ramping up and bills are being heard and moved.
Two major bills were introduced this week: House Bill 111 addresses petroleum taxes and credits; the other, House Bill 115, proposes using the earnings of the Permanent Fund to finance state government and would impose a personal income tax at 15 percent of the federal tax liability.
HB 115 is estimated to raise $655 million for government spending. Hearings on the measure will begin February 13, at 1:30 p.m. These are major proposals from the new House Majority. Only members of the minority in the House have introduced spending limits.
On the Senate side, Senate Bill 54 and Senate Bill 55 have been introduced to “clean-up” Senate Bill 91, the omnibus crime bill passed last year. Both bills will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, SB 54 on February 17 and SB 55 on February 15.
An Alaska Criminal Justice Commission report is the basis of the two bills. NFIB members will be most interested in recommendations:
- #2 – jail time for Theft 4
- #5 – jail time for Class C felonies
- #6 – aggregators for Class A misdemeanors
- #9 – length of probation for Theft 4.
NFIB is still reviewing SB 54, but is expected to support it.
House Bill 69, which would repeal the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, had its second hearing on February 10. NFIB agrees that the board simply did not live up to the hopes of reducing the costs of Workers Compensation, nor did it improve the decision process or avoid court litigation.
The Senate companion, Senate Bill 29, will get its first Senate hearing on February 14.
Senate Bill 40, Gov. Bill Walker’s attempt to narrow the definition on independent contractors and increases fines on them, will be heard in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee on February 14. NFIB is opposing the measure.
Sen. Berta Gardner has introduced a mandate for insurance coverage of contraceptives, again. She agrees that her Senate Bill 53 should not pass unless it includes coverage for all state employees. Although including all mandates in state insurance plans shows some level of fairness and accountability, NFIB still opposes the bill.
In a letter to Senator Gardner, NFIB/Alaska State Director Denny DeWitt pointed out that, “For many small employers in Alaska insurance premiums for small groups or single coverage have increased last year by 30 to 40 percent, a jaw-dropping statistic on top of double-digit increases in the past few years. This is completely unsustainable over the long-term. Much of the increase is driven by the additions to coverage by state mandates
“Unfortunately, SB 53 mandates specified drug coverage that may not fit employee’s needs but for which small employers providing health insurance bear the cost. Increased mandates force employers to consider whether they can afford to continue coverage or are forced by increased prices to eliminate health insurance for their employees. Mandates prevent small employers from providing affordable insurance programs tailored to its specific work force.”
Previous Reports & Related News Releases
[Tile photo of Senate Health & Social Service Committee courtesy of The Alaska State Legislature website]