Tuesday recap: House OKs novel energy improvement program

The Alaska House has approved a new program to assist business owners interested in making energy efficiency improvements to their buildings.

House Bill 118, brought by Gov. Bill Walker, was approved 38-0 on Tuesday morning and advances to the Senate for consideration.

Under the program established by HB 118, municipalities can establish loan programs for energy efficiency programs. Rather than have a building owner directly repay the loan, the municipality can levy a special property tax on the building to be upgraded. This means that if the building is sold, the loan stays with the building, not the borrower.

Because energy efficiency improvements may only be cost-effective over the long term, the goal is to provide an incentive for building owners unwilling to hold on to their buildings for many years.

A person buying a building that has been improved under the program would pay higher property taxes but would pay less in energy costs.

“This is a great, great tool for commercial properties to cut down on energy use,” said Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks.

The property must receive an energy audit before and after improving a building that receives a loan.

“This will help bring the private sector into 2016 if they want to be there. … It’s innovative in its way of extending funding to the private sector without a state cost,” said Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, speaking in support.

The House also voted 38-0 to approve HB 290, which keeps the state’s real estate commission operating through 2018. It had been set to expire this year.

In the Senate, lawmakers unanimously approved SB 201, which requires drug wholesalers to be licensed by the state, even if they are located Outside. The bill, brought forward by Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, is required by new federal regulation.

The bill advances to the House.

On Wednesday, among other legislation, the Senate is expected to take up SB 196, which calls for spending the excess earnings of the state’s Power Cost Equalization program for rural communities and SB 210, which halves the state’s revenue sharing program and recalculates the formula used to distribute the remaining funds.

The House was scheduled to convene at 7 p.m. to continue its 11 a.m. floor session. Due to print deadlines, the Empire was unable to include the results of the latter floor session. A full recap will be published in Thursday’s newspaper.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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