This undated concept drawing shows a completed Alaska-class ferry in the colors of the Alaska Marine Highway. (Alaska DOT photo)

Ferries can keep flushing, if Senate Bill 3 passes

A bill renewing a wastewater exemption for the Alaska Marine Highway System is moving to a vote on the Senate floor.

Late Monday afternoon, the Alaska Senate’s resources committee approved Senate Bill 3, a measure proposed by Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, to renew an exemption that expired in 2016.

Under state statute, small passenger vessels and ferries carrying between 50 and 249 overnight passengers are exempt from the state’s normal rules covering wastewater disposal. That statute expired Jan. 1, 2016 and needs to be renewed. If it isn’t renewed, the state would have to spend millions modifying its ferries.

SB 3 also exempts a portion of the Alaska Marine Highway from another state program ─ the Percent for Arts requirement that 1 percent of every state-funded project pay for art related to that project.

SB 3 exempts the two new Alaska-class ferries and the planned Tustumena-class replacement ferry from the Percent for Arts program.

In a letter to the committee, the Alaska State Council on the Arts says it doesn’t have a problem with that “one-time, targeted exemption from the Alaska Percent for Arts Program.”

The council said it supports the transfer of art from existing vessels to the new ships.

If approved by a vote of the full Senate, SB 3 would head to at least one House committee before reaching a vote of the full House. If approved there, it would then need to be approved by the governor before becoming law.

In other business Monday, the committee also approved House Joint Resolution 6, which supports construction of a one-lane gravel road between Cold Bay and King Cove on the Alaska Peninsula.

The resolution will also head to the Senate floor for consideration, and rapid approval is expected.

A resolution ─ effectively a letter of intent or complaint ─ does not need the approval of the governor. HJR 6 has already been approved by the House.

In the House on Monday, lawmakers voted to put off until Wednesday a floor vote on House Bill 16, which would require police officers to be trained to appropriately cope with people who have disabilities. Alaska’s mentally and physically disabled would also be able to place a notice on their driver’s license indicating that they have a disability.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, and if approved would be the first measure by a minority lawmaker to be approved this year.

In the House Judiciary Committee, members voted to move House Bill 77, the annual revisor’s bill that includes small drafting and spelling corrections in laws approved the previous year.

HB 77 is expected to be read onto the House floor Wednesday and face a floor vote Friday.

Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 419-7732.

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