Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a bill into law Thursday — not a rare occurrence, but this bill was special.

The "Birch Bill" is the nickname given to the last piece of legislation sponsored, introduced and passed by Anchorage Republican Sen. Chris Birch, who died in early August.

Senate Bill 83 updates state regulations that deal with the telecommunications industry in Alaska. Rep. Chuck Kopp, who co-sponsored the bill, said it moves the state into a more modern relationship with the industry, and guarantees people in rural Alaska pay the same rates for long distance and broadband services.

Kopp said Birch pushed hard for the bill because he was interested in moving Alaska forward.

"His vision wasn't so much just about telecommunications," said Kopp. "It was just industry in general. How do we advance good business in Alaska in a way that protects consumers and takes us into the next century? So I know he'd be really proud to see this bill signed into law."

Gov. Dunleavy, who is charged with naming a replacement for Birch, said he expects to make that decision within the next few days. The Alaska Republican Party has submitted three names for consideration, including:

  • former Sen. Dave Donley, who also serves in the Dunleavy administration
  • House Rep. Laddie Shaw
  • Albert Fogle, who lost to Shaw in last year's primary

Dunleavy can choose from the list or name his own candidate which must ultimately be confirmed by Senate Republicans.

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