As the session gets moving, more of the bills are lined up for hearings. You can go to AKLEG.org and find out the current status of bills, listen to audio from the meetings and much more. We’ll try to keep you informed as well with action alerts as the session continues.
What to Know:Legislation Tracking
House Bill 4 – “Repeal Ranked Choice Voting”, was approved in committee and moved to Finance. Rep. Vance (R-Homer) added an additional amendment as they had forgotten to remove the campaign finance disclosures. Now, it is a complete and full withdrawal of Ballot Measure 2. The vote was 5-2 in favor. Rep. Groh (D-Anchorage) and Rep. Gray (D-Anchorage) voted against. Rep. Vance didn’t like the original $2.5 million estimate of what it will take to change the process, so she sent it on to Finance with a zero fiscal note and told them to get a better number. You can still submit letters or emails to your legislators as it will be moving forward for a floor vote soon. As already noted, LWV-AK does not support this bill.
“Voter Registration” changes, was approved in the Judicial Committee with no objections and is now in the Rules Committee. The goal of this bill is to decrease the amount of non-voters on our active voter rolls. This bill also carries a zero fiscal note as the sponsors say many of the provisions of this bill are already in process. As the wording is vague, it will be interesting to see what the Department would do with these provisions in practice. It does include the new clause:
“The director shall adopt a best practice voter registration system to
improve identity matching when comparing the master register with the records and
databases used to review the master register.”
Perhaps the Division already has a system that does this, otherwise, they would need to add a new system. Last year, there was a lot of discussion about what type of system to use. The wording seems pretty vague and open to interpretation.
Senate Bill 177 sponsored by Sen. Hughes (R-Palmer) “Relating to artificial intelligence; requiring disclosure of deepfakes in campaign communications.” There will be a hearing on Feb 01 Thursday 3:30 PM (S)State Affairs at Beltz Room 105 (TSBldg). Testimony is invitation only. If you are at all concerned about all of the misinformation in elections coverage, this would be worth a listen to see what Sen. Hughes is focused on. You can also check out some of the webinars from LWV-Maine (and co-sponsored by us) on artificial intelligence (AI).Listen at Digital Threats to Democracy at https://www.lwvme.org/digitaldemocracy.
On January 24th, there was an initial committee meeting on Senate Bill 173 – “Authorize Handguns School Employees/Volunteers.” They went thru invited testimony only. Sen. Hughes (R-Palmer) made an impassioned plea to think about the safety of children in the schools particularly in rural districts where law enforcement may be many hours or days away. The bill does mandate training and assessments of anyone who would have concealed carry permissions in the schools. Sen. Gray-Jackson (D-Anchorage) asked that they obtain more information from the Department of Public Safety and other law enforcement agencies. Additional testimony, both written and at the next committee meeting was encouraged. Reach out to Senate.Labor.And.Commerce@akleg.gov with your comments.
And then there’s Education
Back to Rules
As most of you know, there has been a lot of back and forth on Senate Bill 140– originally entitled Internet for Schools. The House Rules committee took the bill and effectively turned it into the school funding bill with additional provisions that the Governor requested. The Committee added a $300 per student increase to the Base Student Allocation (BSA) which many who testified explained would be a net decrease in funding. Despite the testimony, the bill was passed out of the Rules Committee where it would next be heard on the House Floor. Then, likely because there weren’t enough votes to pass, the bill was moved back to the Rules committee where it now sits. There is no meeting set as of the writing of this newsletter.
The Governor has gone on the record saying that he would veto a standalone BSA increase bill if it comes to his desk without additional proposals. The concern raised from the Senate was that there wasn’t time to review many of these proposals and to hear from constituents. Some proposals seem positive, some are more problematic. We’ll keep you informed when and if any hearings are scheduled.
Legislation to Watch – Meetings
The bill HB 105: Sex/reproduction Education; Schools has been scheduled for a meeting. House Judiciary ~ Jan 31 2024 1:00 pm. This is at the request of the Governor. You can read the Governor’s statement here. If you want to comment, send your comments to House.Judiciary@akleg.gov.
The bill HB 242: Extend Senior Benefits Payment Program has been scheduled for a meeting.House Health & Social Services ~ Feb 1 2024 3:00 pm.
Legislative Calendar and Events
February 19, 2024 – President’s Day
April 14, 2024– 90th day of the session (By law (AS 24.05.150))
May 15, 2024– 121st day of the session (Per the Alaska Constitution)
How are we doing?
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