Saturday, March 25, 2006

Family Rights and Gun Rights Bills Move to Senate

It's been a very busy week in Juneau. I had two bills pass the House and cross over to the Senate for hearings.

HB 408 was introduced by the Governor to define child abuse, but with the department's nod, I have used the bill as an instrument to bring clarity to HB 53, the Family Rights Act, which passed in 2005. This bill now does several things including raising the standard for terminating parental rights from a preponderance of evidence to "clear and convincing evidence". It also has language that protects the PFD's of a minor in state custody and allows OCS to discuss all aspects of a case, not just a single report of harm. It includes a provision from legislation Representative Mike Chenault introduced that would require OCS to respond to an inquiry from a legislative office in five working days.

I am also working closely with Representatives Norman Rokeberg and Mark Neuman to address concerns they have with the CINA process. HB 408 passed the House unanimously and has been scheduled by Senator Seekins to be heard in Senate Judiciary Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

HB 400 passed on Friday. I introduced it to say what happened in New Orleans when innocent victims of the disaster lost their firearms to law enforcement will not happen in Alaska. HB 400 makes it a crime for a law enforcement officer to confiscate legal weapons owned by law abiding citizens during disaster. It passed the House unanimously.

Reports that the legislature is sitting idle because of the PPT legislation are not true. Committees are still scheduling hearings on legislation and bills are moving through the process. Next Tuesday HB 426 will be haerd in House HESS. This legislation is my attempt to review policies for providing for the public health. To better provide medical assistance to the truly needy, some eligibility requirements need to be changed. HB 426 puts best practices to use by increasing third-party reimbursement, reducing Medicaid abuse and fraud, setting home equity limits, and implementing new federal requirements on the State for asset transfers and treating annuities like a Miller’s Trust.

U.S. Senator Ted Stevens spoke to a joint session of the legislature on Thursday. Stevens said our future economic potential is "extraordinary". He said Alaska has 2/3rds of the Outer Continental Shelf in the U.S. and Alaska holds a large portion of significant oil and gas reserves reported. He said there is enormous potential in gas hydrates and we have half the coal in the United States. He encouraged us to join our Congressional delegation in taking advantage of this place in history and giving our all to opening ANWR to exploration.

Other than a brief snow storm last week, the weather in Juneau has been great for this time of the year. Blue skies always start the day off in a good way. The picture to the left is the bridge crossing the Gastineau Channel that connects Douglas Island to Juneau. Douglas Island was the site of several large scale mining operations in the late 1800's.

Welcome to the world Grayson David McGuire Anderson!! Renee Limoge, press secretary for the Majority, is holding baby Grayson as Suzanne Cunningham, chief of staff for Representative Kevin Meyer, beams with joy for the birth of Representatives Tom Anderson and Lesil McGuire's newborn baby boy, Grayson. Grayson is two weeks old and has been in Juneau for only four days but has captured the hearts of everyone.

Dr. Dave Eichler and wife, Amy, stopped by to visit this week. Dave is a North Pole dentist who was in Juneau attending a meeting of the Dental Board.

The House Judiciary Committee continued hearings on SB 20 this week. This bill makes a statutory change so when a person takes deliberate actions that result in the death of an unborn child, they will be charged with the murder of the child. I was very disappointed the committee tabled the bill which recongizes the rights of an unborn child.

The Alberta Alaska Bilateral Council met in Juneau this week. I was appointed to the commission two years ago by Governor Murkowski. I was able to attend the morning session but floor session and House Judiciary limited my participation. A trans-Canada pipeline was the major topic of discussion. Jeannette James, former legislator from North Pole, attended the meeting to discuss extension of the railroad through Canada. Jeannette is a special assistant to the governor on the railroad issue.

I have been working closely with former Senator Alan Austerman on HB 304 which makes changes to the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan Program. Austerman is the governor's policy director for the commercial fishing industry. This bill is a product of my philosophical belief that government should not compete with the private sector. I want to make sure that any loan program the State administers is the source of last resort.