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Story Last modified at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 10, 2011

Legislature passes halfway point

By Rep. Bill Stoltze

Editor's note: The Alaska Star asked our area's representatives and senators for their input on this year's legislative session. For the next three weeks, these public servants will share their impressions and work load with us. One senator or representative will be represented each week. We thank them for taking the time to communicate with their constituents during this busy time. Meanwhile, we encourage readers to share their views, too. What do you think of the legislative process and the priorities for our community and state? We welcome your letters to the editor. Rep. Dan Saddler weighed in on Feb. 17. Sen. Cathy Giessel wrote on Feb. 24. Next week we hear from Rep. Anna Fairclough.

It has been busy in Juneau as we pass the halfway point of the session. As the co-chair of the House Finance Committee, I've been working on both the state operating and capital budgets. I also have three pieces of personal legislation that are geared to make your lives better and to reduce your interaction with government.

With the budget process nearing completion and the budget bills almost ready to go to the House floor for a vote, the House Finance Committee is preparing to consider House Bill 110, the governor's bill on the oil and gas taxes.

The personal legislation I am working on aims to grant permanent registration to non-commercial motor vehicles and trailers and give personal-use fisheries a preference when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game considers taking emergency action, such as closing or limiting fishing.

Making fewer trips to DMV

House Bill 10 and House Bill 64 would allow the owners of non-commercial motor vehicles and trailers to acquire a permanent registration from the Division of Motor Vehicles. Both bills are in the House Transportation Committee. My goal is to make it so you have to deal with government less often.

House Bill 10 calls for the owners of snowmachine, boat and other non-commercial trailers to be granted the same privilege the legislature extended to owners of commercial trailers back in 1998: the ability to pay a one-time registration fee that will remain valid as long as you own the trailer. Currently the freight and gravel trailers traveling up and down the highway pay a permanent registration fee of $25, while the state requires the non-commercial trailer owner to pay $35 every two years to register a trailer. This hardly seems fair.

House Bill 64 calls for the DMV to allow permanent registration of non-commercial vehicles that are 8 years old and older. Currently about a third of the vehicles registered in Alaska would be eligible for the luxury of never having to deal with DMV again, as long as ownership of the vehicle does not change. This is a benefit to those eligible and would make the DMV more efficient for those who have to visit the office for any other reason.

I view these two bills as a win-win for both the Alaskans and for the state. However, they have met stiff opposition from the Alaska Municipal League, an organization of local governments, to which MOA pays annual membership fees. This group has fought tooth and nail to halt these bills. I am committed to work to secure passage.

Alaskan residents first in line for our fish

House Bill 20 would enact a preference be put in place for personal use and subsistence fishing when Fish and Game places restrictions on a fishery to allow a species to reach a management or escapement goal. Simply put, the Board of Fish would be required to restrict other types of fishing before it restricts or limits personal-use fishing, such as subsistence. Personal use and subsistence are fisheries open only to Alaskans, and this would give Alaskans the first priority for our fish.

Governor's oil tax reform top priority

The Governor's oil and gas production tax bill, House Bill 110, is the most important piece of legislation considered in Juneau this session. As the co-chair of the House Finance Committee I am committed that after careful review and public input, this measure will go to the House floor for a vote.

It was an incredible opportunity to be back in the community during the Energy Council recess. The ability to attend my community council meeting, visit the Chugiak Senior Center, and many other scheduled meetings and informal discussions (grocery store and post office politics) was invaluable to me. I look forward to seeing everyone March 19 at the (Chugiak) Eagle River Town Center for our Legislative Town Hall meeting, 4 to 6 p.m.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, March 10, 2011.