Legislature Adjourns with Flurry of Bills Passed; Governor Parnell Calls Special Session
The legislature criminalized possession or sale of a synthetic drug known as “bath salts,” which produce a high similar to cocaine or meth.
"I'd like to say this is the last time we're going to be before you and saying we have another one of these trendy drugs that some pretty vile people have found a way to make money off of kids without much regard, or any regard, but we'll probably be back next year, or not much after that," said Representative Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak/Mat-Su).
One bill that hung in the balance right up to the end was the 10-year extension of the film tax incentive program that brought the shooting of the major motion pictures Big Miracle and The Frozen Ground to Alaska.
A series of House Finance Subcommittee meetings late in the session led to a compromise.
"It ties the credits for what's called above the line costs – which include those costs to producers, actors, directors, writers – it ties those credits attributable to those costs directly to the amount of money that is spent on hiring Alaskans and paying Alaska businesses for their work," said Representative Mia Costello (R-Anchorage).
One lawmaker said a key was testimony by Alaskans who have played key support roles in the growing presence of film in Alaska.
"…And have been involved in this industry long before we started this program… and the dialogue with people who have come back to Alaska, who have gone Outside, made a life for themselves, gotten trained, been trained, have won the awards at the highest levels in this industry and are returning to Alaska," said Representative David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks).
Inserted in that bill are tax credits for oil and gas exploration in what's being called “the middle earth” region of the state, as well as credits for natural gas storage facilities – although there is sharp disagreement about whether that's an adequate change to petroleum tax policy this year.
Another bill passed Sunday gives Alaska businesses tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans and disabled veterans.
Senate Bill 25 created the Alaska Sustainable Strategy for Energy Transmission and Supply fund within the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority for financing energy projects in Alaska.
Education was addressed as well, with long-term funding for Governor Parnell's Alaska Performance Scholarship Program, and funding for Parents as Teachers and Best Beginnings, as well as increases in the base funding for student transportation and expanding vocational education to middle schools.
The Alaska Foster Family Protection Act passed. It will keep siblings together in foster care absent a compelling eason to separate them. The act also waives some housing code requirements that kept rural foster children from staying in their home towns or villages, and streamlines the foster parent application process overall.
One high profile bill which did not pass was HB80, the "stand your ground" law which became controversial in light of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, where a similar law is on the books.