Alaska Capitol

The Alaska Legislature has rolled out its first round of pre-filed bills for the upcoming session that starts Jan. 21 in Juneau. Among those are pieces of legislation hoping to change Medicaid regulations, adjust University of Alaska administrative structure and restrict the state’s ability to send prisoners to out-of-state prisons. 

Four Fairbanks area lawmakers were among the group of 20 legislators to release proposed legislation Friday. 

Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop has proposed a constitutional amendment that would change the number of votes needed to override a veto from the governor. Senate Joint Resolution 12 would change the vote to two-thirds from three-fourths.

“This would just put us in line with the majority of the rest of the states. That was the genesis behind this idea,” Bishop said Friday. “Three-quarters is a high bar and I thought it was warranted to take a look at.”

Last year’s attempted legislative override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s extensive list of budget vetoes contributed to Bishop’s interest in the change. Bishop is the only Fairbanks area senator to propose legislation so far. 

North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson has pre-filed two bills. 

House Bill 184 seeks to remove veterinarians from the state’s prescription drug database requirements. Veterinarians now are required to look up a pet owner on the prescription drug database prior to prescribing opioids for animals. 

A group of veterinarians is pushing for the change, noting that it adds time and unnecessary spending while doing little to address more significant contributors to the state’s opioid crisis. 

Wilson previously noted her concerns over the invasion of pet owners’ privacy. 

“I don’t think it was ever meant to have to do with animals,” Wilson said last week before a public meeting on the issue. “It was meant to control people who are jumping doctors. So when we found out these issues, that it’s not the pets even being put into the system but the owners, it just doesn’t make any sense.”

House Bill 191 would implement regulations urging the Department of Health and Social Services to work with new foster families to help ensure a foster child is able to continue attending the church they were attending previously. 

“A few years ago we passed a bill that helped ensure that a child in state custody would stay in the same school whenever possible, but sometimes the church is just as important as the school for the child’s community, so I think it’s important to take that into consideration,” Wilson said. “It would just work to keep consistent as many things as you can. If they’re regular attenders of church and the church is their support system, it’s important to keep that there for them if possible.”

Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Adam Wool has pre-filed a bill that would add a faculty position to the University of Alaska Board of Regents. House Bill 180 would increase the number of regents from 11 to 12, adding a position for a full-time tenured faculty member. 

“It’s been something that’s been kicking around in my head for a while, but especially after the brouhaha that’s come up this last interim about faculty members not feeling heard, I felt like it was a good move,” Wool said. “There’s a student regent, so it only makes sense that there would be a faculty regent. If there is one at the table as a voting member, hopefully this will help them feel a little more heard.”

Healy Republican Rep. Dave Talerico pre-filed two bills. 

House Bill 189 would tighten Department of Health and Social Services regulations requiring the Office of Children’s Services to inform noncustodial family members of a removed child of the child’s assignment to a new household and location within 30 days of the child’s removal of its original household.

House Bill 190 would open up Alaska Permanent Fund dividend regulations to allow for an otherwise eligible Alaskan to still qualify for a PFD check if the person is out of state for a variety of reasons.

Talerico was unable to be reached for comment.   

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.