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FROM JUNEAU: Week 12
by Senator Loren Leman
March 30, 2001
THE BOOKS, WRITING THE CHECKS: The Senate Finance Committee
heard subcommittee presentations on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday,
starting at 10:00 a.m. we will hear public testimony. Call your
Legislative Information Office to find out what time you can give
testimony in your area. The operating budget will be on the Senate
floor for a vote next week. Differences between the House and Senate
versions will be worked out in a conference committee.
OF INTEREST: Senate Bill 133, the High School Competency Exam
bill, passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday and moved to the House
for its consideration. It maintains accountability, ensures that
students will take the exam seriously and gives two more years for
test revision and curricula alignment. Senate Bill 164 is legislation
of note in that all 20 senators have signed on as cosponsors. It
prohibits leases on state rights-of-way in the Beaufort Sea for
a gas pipeline, effectively closing the "Northern Route"
for taking Alaska gas through Canada. Introduced March 23, it has
already cleared the Senate Resources Committee and awaits scheduling
on the Senate floor.
REPORT: Committees are where most of the work of the Legislature
gets accomplished. For example, in the Senate Labor & Commerce
Committee we¹ve been working on SB 66, a rewrite of the State¹s
banking laws, since mid-February. After four previous hearings that
focused on a number of issues, especially consumer privacy, the
bill will move from the committee next Tuesday. Then next Thursday
we will take up a rewrite of the State insurance code. On Tuesday
the Senate Finance subcommittee for the Department of Natural Resources,
which I chair, completed work on the DNR budget for FY 2002. To
check on committee schedules and bills in committee go here.
SEARCH OF TEACHERS AND NURSES: Senate Bill 149, which I introduced
last week, has been expanded and improved. The sponsor substitute
for SB 149, now called the Alaska Teacher and Health Care Provider
Recruitment and Retention Act of 2001, includes signing bonuses
for newly recruited teachers and health care providers, as well
as enhanced medical plans and merit pay for teachers. In addition,
it will expedite the process of state certification for teachers
already certified in other states.
THE NEW CO-CHAIRMAN OF THE FINANCE COMMITTEE have a feeling
of deja vu reading this headline it's because three weeks ago I
mentioned Judge Sen Tan and his order that the State pay for elective
abortions for Medicaid recipients. Move over Judge Tan. Now Judge
Reese has warned that he may tell the State how much to spend on
school construction and where to spend it. The State should appeal
his ruling immediately. In our system of government with separation
of powers among co-equal branches these decisions, if allowed to
stand, create constitutional crises.
VISITORS: Many friends from across Alaska visited the Capitol
this week. My favorites were my son Joseph, home for Spring Break
from the Air Force Academy, and daughter Rachel, a high school sophomore
enjoying her Spring Break. A delegation from Victims for Justice
presented compelling reasons for supporting their organization.
I encourage you to support this worthy cause. Visit their website.
If you know of
other Alaskans who would like to receive my weekly report by email,
me or 465-2095, or visit my website.