Legislature shifting into high gear for 90-day session
State Director Denny DeWitt reports from the State Capitol on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending January 26
The Legislature is getting into gear and actually acting like they would like to get out in the realm of 90 days. Subcommittees have begun working on the state budget and policy committees are scheduling bills for hearing. Given that this is an election year, legislators will want to get home to campaign.
Several bills of interest to small businesses are scheduled the week beginning January 29.
House Bill 142, by Rep. Chris Tuck, would increase the maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit from $370 to $510 and the income level for taxes from $42,000 to $59,500. It would also provide for Consumer Price Index increases in the future. HB 142 will be heard in the House Finance Committee on February 7. NFIB continues its opposition.
Plastic Bag Fee
House Bill 264, by Rep. Andy Josephson, would assess a 20-cent per plastic bag fee provided by retail stores and require signage and other activities to encourage recycling. The store would keep 5 cents per bag that may be used to cover expenses associated with recycling disposable bags as required under this law. HB 264 will be heard in the Community and Regional Affairs Committee on January 30. NFIB will oppose this bill because it will create an administrative nightmare for small retailers.
Senate Bill 112, by Sen. Cathy Giessel, which would amend the state’s workers’ compensation law, will be heard in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee February 1. Supported by NFIB, this bill includes the language exempting independent contractors. It also deals with rehabilitation and limiting attorney fees. It appears to offer significant savings to the program and refocusing on getting injured employees back to work.
Dept. of Fish & Game Permitting Power
House Bill 199 would give the state Dept. of Fish & Game permitting control over the development of any property that drains into lakes or rivers unless proven not to affect fisheries. Sponsored by Rep. Louise Stutes, the measure was heard in the House Fisheries Committee. This bill is similar to the “Save our Salmon” initiative. Both are attempting to stop the Pebble Mine but can’t do it directly. Their approach is to cloak their intent and inhibit economic development in Alaska. Representative Stutes offered a significant rewrite of the bill. NFIB’s view is that the changes are mostly cosmetic and still precludes most economic development. NFIB continues its opposition.
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[Tile photo courtesy of The Alaska State Legislature’s Capitol Updates]