Muñoz gets three bills through Legislature

On the final day of the second session of the 29th Alaska Legislature, Juneau Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz became the first local legislator to get a bill through the Capitol this year.

Three bills brought forward by Muñoz ─ House bills 41, 143 and 274 ─ are on their way to the desk of Gov. Bill Walker.

Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, attempted to amend a bill on the floor to include the content of his House Bill 145, creating special Alaska Purchase, Chilkoot Pass and honorary foreign consul license plates, but he was defeated 11-28 in the House.

“Tired,” Muñoz said after being asked how she felt after the House adjourned just after 3 a.m. Monday.

House Bill 41, which was also pushed by Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, reinstates fees for the state’s fishing guide license program. The program requiring guides to hold a license is 11 years old, but when it was first drafted, the state’s ability to collect fees expired after 10 years.

That sunset clause came and went, and the state has been unable to collect fees since.

As originally written, HB 41 would have charged guides for fishing on saltwater and freshwater alike. In the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, exempted freshwater fishing guides from the fees, and the change was accepted by the full House and full Senate.

HB 41 charges $200 for a saltwater sportfishing operator license and $100 for a saltwater guide license.

Guides must register their boats with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the fees will sunset in 2019.

The bill passed the House last year and was approved 16-4 in the Senate on Sunday.

House Bill 143, approved 18-2 in the Senate on Sunday, gives the Alaska Industrial and Development Authority permission to sell up to $120 million in bonds on behalf of the developers of the Sweetheart Lake hydroelectric dam.

AIDEA, a state-owned corporation, normally operates under a cap that would prohibit it from seeking so much financing. The bill allows AIDEA to override the cap.

According to documents provided by the Legislature, responsibility for the bonds will rest with the dam developers, not AIDEA, which will simply get the developers a lower interest rate and cheaper borrowing.

Sweetheart dam, planned for a site about 43 miles southeast of Juneau, is intended to supply electricity to the Kensington Gold Mine and a heating system for downtown Juneau.

AIDEA also backed construction of Juneau’s Snettisham hydroelectric project.

A land swap between the state and Echo Ranch Bible Camp will be possible under House Bill 274, approved in a 20-0 Senate vote. The land swap is necessary because the only access to Point Bridget State Park is by a trail running across Echo Ranch-owned land.

The state and Echo Ranch have been trying for years to exchange property but were stymied by statute. HB 274 allows land appraisals to expire after more than one year, allowing time for the public process necessary to swap parcels.

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