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by Senator Loren Leman
April 20, 2001

ON SCHEDULE: With 18 days left in the legislative session we are on schedule for an orderly adjournment on or before the May 8 deadline. The number of bills heard in committee and on the daily Senate and House calendars is increasing, and during this time bills may be brought before committees on 24-hour notice. If you are interested in a particular piece of legislation be sure to check often for updates.

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MAKES PROGRESS: The Conference Committee working on the Operating and Mental Health budgets met frequently this week and Thursday agreed on budgets for the Court System and the Departments of Fish and Game, Labor, Natural Resources and Revenue (except for one item). It will continue to meet through this weekend.

WORKING ON THE RAILROAD: The Senate on Thursday passed SB 123, which provides for more legislative oversight of Alaska Railroad construction. Large, federally funded construction projects and track realignments will be submitted to the Legislature at the beginning of each session, and we will have 60 days to disapprove by law. Smaller projects, repairs and maintenance will not be affected. I supported this legislation. The bill is now in the House Transportation Committee.

MEDICAID COST CONTROL: On Wednesday the Senate HESS Committee heard testimony on Alaska’s Medicaid program. Budgeted at $561 million for FY 2002, Medicaid costs have been rising rapidly ($75 million total this year), and the Republican Majority’s commitment to budget discipline requires us to examine ways to save money in this area while still providing essential coverage to those who need it. These discussions are the beginning of a plan to do that.

LABORING IN L&C: Two pieces of business legislation were heard in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee on Thursday. Senate Bill 176, Distributorships, protects Alaska distributors of products from planes to paperclips from being harmed by manufacturers that change or abandon business agreements with little or no notice. Businesspeople testified that millions of dollars have been lost by Alaska businesses when national companies engage in these practices. Senate Bill 189, Motor Vehicle Sales and Dealers, will establish in law the rules for agreements between the automobile manufacturers and Alaska dealers, establish licensing for car dealers and salespeople, and give Alaska a comprehensive motor vehicle sales law. Although this bill has broad support among Alaska businesses, major auto manufacturers expressed some concerns. Work on both of the bills will continue at the next hearing on April 24.

NEIGHBORS PAY A VISIT: Sometimes neighbors have to travel pretty far to see each other. I enjoyed visiting this week in my office with Anchorage neighbors. Andy Anderson (photo) a retired Alaska Airlines pilot, discussed the new Lake Hood floatplane regulations. Marilyn Kasmar is a registered nurse and Executive Director of the Alaska Primary Care Association. We discussed health care availability. Another special visitor was Dick Hawkins, a classmate of mine in Ninilchik from the 4th grade through high school. He is an elementary school teacher in Anchorage. We talked about incentives to hire and retain teachers.

If you know of other Alaskans who would like to receive my weekly report by email, please contact me or 465-2095, or visit my website.

(Enhanced for Netscape)

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