Alaska State Chamber of Commerce Capital Notes
www.alaskachamber.com Wednesday February 03, 2010
Second Session of 26thAlaska Legislature
The Legislature kicked off the second session of the 26thAlaska legislature one day after the Martin Luther King holiday. Most legislators and staffers had begun to assemble here in Juneau the prior week. About fifty bills were pre-filed prior to the beginning of session as legislators were vying for particular bill numbers or just getting their after session homework done prior to the second session beginning again.
Governor's State of the State Address
Governor Sean Parnell gave his state of the state speech on the second day of session, and appeared to win support from all political parties and both the minority and majority coalitions. The Governor made it clear that his administration was going to address domestic violence, sexual assault and a host of other issues surrounding alcohol abuse. The state of Alaska leads the nation in nearly every category of sexual assault, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and sexual assault of a minor. Rural legislators and democrats praised the governor for taking on the difficult issue and the associated mind-boggling statistics.
Many legislators are asking for a revisit of the oil and gas tax legislation endorsed by the previous governor. In response, the governor put forth a series of initiatives to encourage oil and gas investments coupled with decreases in taxes for companies making those investments. Many Republicans and proponents of lessening taxes for the oil companies saw Governor Parnell's initiatives as a step in the right direction.
New Management Style
The Governor has maintained a very high profile in statewide news reports, in local towns across the state and within the administration. According to many of high-level state employees that we have spoken to, Governor Parnell has been an active manager. Governor Parnell's hands-on management seems to be creating a better working environment for many folks within government agencies. There was some concern before Governor Parnell took office that administrative officers were getting little direction in which to do their jobs. In fact, one source reported that a full cabinet meeting never occurred under the previous administration. Governor Parnell made up for time lost in his first week, holding a full cabinet meeting. Legislators too have noticed a difference, instead of getting little or no response from the administration as was occurring last year; the Parnell Administration has made an effort to meet with most legislators prior to session and continues to be responsive with current requests.
Input Sought from Business Community
There are a number of bills left over from the previous session and two in particular, that we need your input on:
Daylight Savings Time
HB 19 sponsored by Rep. Anna Fairclough proposes to do away with Daylight Savings Time. This means for half the year the state will be 5 hours off from the East Coast, and 4 hours off the other six months. The belief for doing so is to allow for our body's natural association with light and dark to be better adjusted. Obviously, the Chamber has some concerns about Alaskan businesses being able to work competitively and in conjunction with businesses in the contiguous US and within a global market. So far, opposition has mostly come from SE Alaska, which would lose daylight hours in the evening time during the summer. Some business interests have supported the concept.
1. Do you think this is a good idea?
2. Would your business be adversely affected by the change? Please explain.
3. What part of the state do you do conduct your business from?
Let us know your thoughts. Please take a couple of minutes to respond to our on-line survey. Your responses will help us to better relay your concerns to legislators.
High School Exit Exams
The other issue we need your input on is in regards to the High School Competency Exam. This requirement was passed about 6 years ago by the legislature. It has recently come to our attention that there is a push to do away with the exam. Some legislators see the exam as being unfair or that we are dumbing down the curriculum by requiring teachers to teach towards the exam. The business community and the university system originally supported the exit exam as candidates for colleges and jobs weren't showing up prepared with the necessary skills to read, write and do the basic math requirements.
So do businesses support doing away with exit exam?
What is your reason for either keeping the exam or doing away with it?
Please reply back to this email and we will try to gather all of your thoughts and suggestions. Thanks and much appreciated.
The next set of notes will provide you with a run down on some of the bills with potential affects to your business along with an overview of the state operating budgets. Legislators are just beginning to get their hands on the budget and budget subcommittees should be active in coming weeks.
The State Chamber of Commerce
If there is an issue that you and your business would like to bring to the attention of the State Chamber of Commerce, do not hesitate to contact the staff of the State Chamber of Commerce anytime. We are following the actions of the Administration closely while keeping track of many bills. Let us know if there is legislation that we should be tracking.
Any person can follow the legislative process and access new bills, committee substitutes or find out which legislator is on a particular committee by using the Legislature's Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS). You can see what committee a bill is in, when it will be heard, how committee members voted, and much more. You can also view all bills relating to your specific areas of interest by selecting "Subject Summary" from the menu on the right. Just click on the link below and bookmark it for later use.