Saturday recap: Lawmakers approve sharing of voter information

The Alaska House has approved a bill calling for the state to share voter information with other states in an effort to deter voter fraud.

Representatives voted 36-3 Saturday afternoon to approve Senate Bill 9, one of many items of legislation considered by the Alaska House and Alaska Senate on the 89th day of the Legislative session.

The Electronic Registration Information Center is a project of several states and supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts. As of December 2015, 15 states participated in the information-sharing program, including Republican-leaning ones like Alabama and Democratic-leaning ones like Oregon.

“ERIC is a proven model that works,” said Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River and the bill’s prime sponsor in the House.

Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, spoke up in support. In a speech on the House floor, he explained how one Juneau woman, attending college Outside, was encouraged to register to vote at the college when she couldn’t remember if she had previously registered in Alaska.

“By registering again, she lost her eligibility for her Permanent Fund Dividend,” Kito said. “It’s important for us to be able to share information with other states.”

When the Senate approved SB 9 last year, it was written as a measure to repeal the ability of political parties to put partisan advertising in the state’s printed election pamphlet. The version of the bill passed by the House still includes that repeal, but the Senate never voted on the information-sharing components of the bill.

Thus, the bill will go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. Only if the Senate agrees with the information-sharing aspects of the bill will it advance to the desk of Gov. Bill Walker.

Wilson outflanks committees

In a bit of floor maneuvering, Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, amended an ethics bill to include a measure barring state contractors from participating in the state’s public employees retirement system.

Wilson’s amendment to Senate Bill 24 was approved 34-4 on Saturday. The text of the amendment is her House Bill 299, which was introduced in February but stalled in the House Labor and Commerce Committee.

Senate Bill 24, as designed by Sen. Berta Gardner, R-Anchorage, and approved in the Senate on April 1, exempts state contractors from irrelevant portions of the state’s ethics guidelines. It doesn’t make sense, Gardner said on the Senate floor, for the contractor in charge of printing the Legislative journals to be required to undergo training about answering constituent questions and political contributions.

SB 24 was approved 35-4 in the House and now returns to the Senate, where lawmakers will be asked whether to agree with Wilson’s amendment and other changes in the House.

To help the bill on its way, House lawmakers also voted 38-0 in favor of House Concurrent Resolution 34, which waives some rules of the House for SB 24.

Senate approves federal veto

In a 13-5 vote, the Senate on Saturday approved House Joint Resolution 14, which says the state supports a call for a U.S. Constitutional convention with the intent to pass an amendment that would allow states to “countermand” or veto a piece of federal legislation or a federal court decision.

The House approved the resolution 24-15 on April 10.

The resolution does not have to be approved by the governor, but it will not become effective unless two-thirds (34) of all U.S. states request one on the same topic. Alaska is the first state to request a constitutional convention on the countermand issue under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

The Legislature in 2014 passed a resolution calling for an Article V convention to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office of federal government officials.”

Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Georgia have also requested Article V conventions on that topic, according to a list kept by the chief clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Saturday’s resolution was strongly opposed by the Senate’s Democratic minority. All four members of the minority voted against it, as did Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka. Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, did not vote, and Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, was absent from the vote.

Other items

The House and Senate had ample other business Saturday:

  • Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, withdrew House Bill 81 from consideration on the House floor before its vote Saturday. The bill would have closed the owner-builder loophole in state construction contracting law. The loophole is effective when a person ostensibly builds a home for themselves, an act that exempts them from the requirement to register as a construction contractor, then sells the resulting house.
  • In a 19-0 vote, the Senate approved House Concurrent Resolution 17, which asks Gov. Walker to make state land available for drone aircraft training, testing and research. The resolution previously passed the House.
  • With a 19-0 decision, the Senate also approved House Joint Resolution 30, which asks the American Psychiatric Association and others to use the term “Post Traumatic Stress Injury” instead of “disorder”.
  • The sole piece of binding legislation approved by the Senate on Saturday was House Bill 188, which passed the Senate in a 19-0 vote. The measure, originally brought forward by Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, allows Alaskans to set up protected savings accounts for the disabled. The accounts function much like the University of Alaska’s 529 college savings plans. HB 188 goes to Walker for his approval.
  • House Concurrent Resolution 19, approved 37-1 in the House on Saturday, exempts SB 9 from rules of the House to ease its passage.
  • The House approved Senate Bill 170 in a 39-0 vote. The bill, approved in the Senate on April 7, allows the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to collect fees from users of the state’s library of geological core samples. That library is located in Anchorage. The bill advances to the governor.
  • The House also approved the creation of a legislative task force on civics education. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, drafted by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and approved by the Senate last year, calls for a task force to come up with a plan to improve civics education in the state. The plan is due by Jan. 19, 2017.
  • The state Board of Chiropractic Examiners will see minor changes if Gov. Bill Walker signs Senate Bill 69, which was approved in a 39-0 vote by House lawmakers. According to the bill, the board will be allowed to license chiropractic interns, preceptors and assistants as well as chiropractors. The bill also states that chiropractors may perform school physicals and physicals of children necessary to play school sports.
  • Sen. Mia Costello’s legislation supporting crowdfunding, Senate Bill 126, was passed 38-0 by House lawmakers. The bill allows Alaska businesses to raise up to $1 million through crowdfunding operations that issue stock for contributions capped at $10,000. Currently, crowdfunded businesses can only offer gifts, not stock or shares of a company, for crowdfunding contributions. The Senate passed a version of the bill containing a $7,500 per-person cap, and senators will be asked to decide which version of the bill they favor.
  • Senate Bill 158 was approved in a 36-3 vote by House lawmakers. The bill toughens the requirements to become a licensed real estate broker in Alaska by requiring three years of real estate experience, up from two years in existing statute. The bill also requires a broker to take 30 hours of continuing education classes per year (up from 15 hours). The Senate version of the bill, approved April 1, required four years of real estate experience. The bill goes to the Senate, which must decide which version of the bill to accept. House Concurrent Resolution 33, suspending some House rules to ease the passage of SB 158, passed the House 38-0 immediately after the vote on SB 158.
  • The House sent House Bill 128 to Gov. Bill Walker with a 33-0 concurrence vote to accept changes made in the Senate. The bill names Aug. 10 of each year as Alaska Wild Salmon Day.
  • The House also voted 36-0 to concur with the Senate’s changes to House Bill 8, which affects the forms and rules governing powers of attorney. HB 8 goes to Gov. Walker.
  • The House voted 28-10 to agree with the Senate’s changes to House Joint Resolution 14, the call for a countermand amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The changes did not affect the goal of the resolution.

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