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Cruise tax bill filed!!!
Lawmakers file 83 bills, amendments
Cruise ship taxation, a new capitol among legislation slated for
By TIMOTHY INKLEBARGER
Education funding, cruise ship taxation and construction of a new
capitol are among the slew of new bills filed before the Alaska
One proposed law prohibits tobacco use for those under the age of 21.
Another would allow a court to charge a person with murder for
intentionally killing a fetus.
Lawmakers submitted 80 bills and three constitutional amendments
Wednesday in preparation for the first year of the 24th legislative
session, which begins Jan. 10.
Cruise ship companies would be charged a $50-per-passenger tax under a
proposal by Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer. Gatto introduced a similar bill
two years ago that would have instituted a $100 head tax, but the
proposal did not make it through a single committee.
"They know I'm not going to let up on this," Gatto said.
A similar bill by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, would charge $75 per
Representatives of the industry have argued that taxing cruise ship
companies would hurt business and result in fewer visitors to the
state. But Gatto said the cruise ship passengers he's talked to said a
$50 tax wouldn't have kept them visiting. He said the cruise ship
industry gets "some of the finest scenery in the known universe and
they get it for nothing."
"They just don't want to pay a tax," Gatto said. "Well, who does?"
Several bills filed in the House of Representatives and the Senate
would increase the base allocation per student in public schools. Rep.
Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, would increase per-student spending from
$4,576 to $4,700. Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, introduced a bill to
increase funding to $4,880 per student.
Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau, introduced three bills mirroring a
citizen initiative that would limit campaign contributions to
candidates and require lobbyists to register with the state after
spending 10 hours in a 30-day period working to influence lawmakers.
Lobbyists now must register after spending 40 hours in one month.
"The definition of lobbyist does need to be tightened up," he said.
Another proposal by Weyhrauch would allow courts to clear the record
for those convicted of some crimes who fulfill their probation
"This would apply to things like minor offenses," Weyhrauch
said. "People with serious crimes against humanity should not have
their records expunged."
Closed primary elections that do not allow voters outside a particular
party to participate would have to be paid for by the political party
instead of the state under a bill filed by Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau.
"The basis of the bill is the state will conduct a primary election and
pay for it, but it's going to be an open primary," Elton said. "It's a
statement of my frustration with the closed primary we've had for the
last several elections. They can pay for it themselves or pick their
candidates at a convention."
Another Elton bill would allow the state to rehire retired state
employees and allow them to continue collecting retirement
benefits. "The benefit for the state is they get to hire an experienced
person," Elton said.
Senate President-elect Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, filed a bill Wednesday
to transfer money from the Alaska Permanent Fund into the state's
savings account, the Constitutional Budget Reserve, after dividends are
paid and the fund is protected against inflation. Stevens could not be
reached for comment, but a fact sheet released from his office said the
proposal would enable future legislatures to cover the cost of core
Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, said Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho's plan
to build a new capitol in Juneau is "doomed to failure." He introduced
a plan to allow municipalities across the state to submit capitol
proposals to the Alaska Legislative Council, which will pick among them.
He said the difference between his plan and Botelho's is that Botelho
would rent the facility to the state to pay off bond debt from
construction. Rokeberg would have the municipality pay the cost itself.
Rokeberg has long advocated moving the Legislature to Anchorage or the
"My fundamental position is we do need a new capitol building," he
said. "It's a matter of where we put it."
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