Some statewide issues

January 28, 2013 11:11 amComments OffViews: 17

 …that might be of interest to locals:
First, here are a few items selected directly from Rep. Paul Seaton’s newsletter to his constituents (Note, the Seward, Moose Pass areas are no longer in his district)
FDA Approval of Genetically Modified Salmon
On December 26, 2012, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) released this Draft Environmental Assessment and Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact Concerning a Genetically Engineered Atlantic Salmon: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/12/26/2012-31118/draft-environmental-assessment-and-preliminary-finding-of-no-significant-impact-concerning-a
The Agency has made a preliminary determination of “no significant environmental impact” and has issued their Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The public has 60 days from the date of the notice to submit comments in response to the Environmental Assessment. Senator Lisa Murkowski, along with a handful of other lawmakers, has submitted a request to FDA to allow more time to comment on the application. However, in the event that a request is not granted, comments will only be considered until February 25th, 2013. Because this is only an Environmental Assessment, and not a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement, public comment is not required in order to grant approval, as the agency has already determined that there would be no significant environmental impact. If you disagree with the determination, you need to state this in your letter.
Repealing Pick.Click.Give program audit requirements
HB 75, repealing the audit requirement for organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give, will have its first hearing on Thursday in the House State Affairs Committee. Currently AS 43.23.062(c)(8) requires organizations with a total annual budget that exceeds $250,000 to have a financial audit by a CPA in order to participate in the Pick.Click.Give program. Constituents in D30 and statewide with budgets just over $250,000 have reported they would need to spend $7,000-$15,000 on an audit, which creates an unreasonable bar to small organizations being listed in Pick.Click.Give. We’ve also found that there is considerable community confusion among donors when an organization is not listed. Many assume the organization has lost its tax-exempt status with the IRS. This bill does not remove financial accountability for nonprofits. The program still requires all participants to file the IRS form 990, a rigorous annual filing every tax-exempt organization must submit to the IRS to keep their tax-exempt status. The 990 form is public record and organizations must disclose detailed financial information, program services, tax compliance, governance practices and management policies. I believe this high standard of accountability to the public is sufficient proof for the State to ensure equal access to the program by all nonprofits, regardless of budget size, rather than the additional financial burden of a CPA audit.
Fisheries Committee hearings
On Tuesday we will hold an oversight hearing on Aquatic Invasive Species in Alaska, as well as an update on Japan Tsunami Debris. The Pacific Northwest Economic Region will also present regarding their Invasive Species Working Group. This presentation will look primarily at the spread of Quagga Mussels and Zebra Mussels in the Lower 48 and Canada and the threat of these species to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
On Friday HB 80, a Governor’s bill dealing with cruise ship wastewater discharges, came before the Fisheries Committee. The Department of Environmental Conservation gave an overview of the bill, which would remove the end of pipe water quality requirements for cruise ship wastewater discharge. As it stands now, cruise ships do not treat their wastewater to a level that complies with all of the standards set for clean water in Alaska. Their wastewater discharge often exceeds the acceptable concentration standards for ammonia, copper, and zinc. Under this legislation they would be able to use the dilution effect of designated mixing zones to render their discharge compliant. This bill does not change clean water standards or the criteria for a mixing zone.
After the bill was summarized there was time for questions and public testimony. The Committee heard a diverse range of opinions. Some people are concerned about the potential impact of discharge on the environment if it passes, and others are worried about losing cruise tourism if it doesn’t.
Of particular interest to me (Rep. Seaton) is ensuring that a provision is incorporated into the bill that disallows cruise ship wastewater discharge into Kachemak Bay and other critical habitat areas around the state.
And from the Alaska Conservation Voters and Alaska Center for the Environment newsletter:

Gov. Parnell has introduced a bill that would curtail Alaskans’ right to
participate in the public process, prevent groups from acquiring water
rights to protect salmon, and expand the use of “general” permits that
are issued without a comment period. The bill, HB 77, specifically
cuts the citizen right to appeal a number of agency decisions on
development issues. Local communities and stakeholders impacted by
poorly thought out, intensive resource extraction projects will have
fewer options to protect their interests if this bill passes.
Hearings on the legislation begin next week.
Upcoming Hearings

1 PM, MON – HB 36, sponsored by Rep. Tammie Wilson, the House
Resources Committee will hear a bill to exempt the armed services from
meeting water pollution standards on military ranges.

3:30 PM, MON – SB 29, the Senate Resources Committee will continue to

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hear the Governor’s bill to roll back the cruise ship pollution
discharge limits approved by the voters in 2006.

Noon, TUES – the House Resources Committee is hosting a coal themed
Lunch and Learn with Lorali Simon, of Usibelli, and Dan Graham, of
PacRim, both presenting.

5:30 to 7:30, TUES – SB 21, the Senate Special Committee on TAPS
Throughput will be taking public testimony from around the state on
the Governor’s oil tax royalty reforms. Testimony will be taken from the
Legislative Information Offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Mat-Su,
Kotzebue, Tok, Nome, Valdez and Unalaska.

1 PM, WED – HB 47, the House Judiciary Committee will hear Rep.
Feige’s bill to require Alaskans to pay to challenge flawed or
improperly issued permits in court, essentially making citizens pay to
get their day in court.

1 PM, THU – HB 77, the House Resources Committee is taking up the
Governor’s proposal to erode permitting standards for the Department
of Natural Resources.

1 PM, FRI – HB 78, the Governor’s bill for a state takeover of dredge
and fill wetland permitting from the Federal government is being heard
in the House Resources Committee.

Following Bills

All bills can be accessed through the state’s Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS). You can see what committee a bill is in, when it will be heard, how committee members voted, and much more. You can view all bills relating to your specific areas of interest by selecting “Subject Summary” from the menu on the right. You can access BASIS through the link below, or by doing a search for “BASIS Alaska” http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/start.asp
Live on the Web Most committee hearings can be seen and heard on Gavel-to-Gavel, which is broadcast on both local access TV and on the Internet. You can also access online archives from their website www.360north.org
Streaming video of all committees. Most committee meetings are teleconferenced and available for viewing on the legislative television website: http://alaskalegislature.tv/ You may also visit your Legislative Information Office in the SeaView Plaza.

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