Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:
May 15, 2018
Ketchikan Daily News: Tidying up
A flurry of emails announcing the passage of various pieces of legislation kept the Daily News' inbox full while the Alaska Legislature worked to complete its session.
As in past years, a broad variety of legislation has been approved — the Legislature certainly tackles much more than state spending and revenue issues. Gaining an understanding of the Legislature's actions will take some time.
One item of early note is House Bill 44, which changes some of the ethics, "good governance," and conflict of interest rules that apply to legislators and lobbyists.
Sponsored by Anchorage independent Rep. Jason Grenn, and co-sponsored by a short list of legislators that includes Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, and Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, HB 44 rightly strengthens and clarifies several rules.
For example, HB 44 defines conflict of interest to include a legislator's immediate family members and employer — and would require legislators to declare conflicts of interest before acting on legislation in committee.
It also prohibits lobbyists from buying alcoholic beverages for a legislator, and limits food purchases.
HB 44 contains a stricter policy for foreign travel by legislators. It bars foreign citizens and corporations from spending money on behalf of candidates in Alaska elections.
The legislation also bars the payment of per diem to legislators after the 121st day of a legislative session if the Legislature hasn't passed an operating budget.
HB 44, which initially was passed by votes of 24-15 in the House and 13-6 in the Senate, now awaits the signature of Gov.?Bill Walker.
The governor should sign the bill, although the legislation doesn't go as far as Grenn or Kreiss-Tomkins would like. As chairs of the Alaskans for Integrity ballot initiative, they believe that some parts HB 44 got watered down in the legislative committee process.
"While the passage of these reforms is a huge improvement over the status quo, Rep. Grenn and I are compelled to note that the legislation is substantially weaker than the ballot initiative it seeks to replace," Kreiss-Tomkins said in a prepared statement. "We prefer the full-strength, undiluted ballot initiative, and believe Alaskans do, too."
For now, we'll take the huge improvement over the status quo.
Alaska's Legislature continues to be a place where obvious conflicts of interest can be ignored, lobbyists can pick up a tab, and legislators can collect per diem whether or not the work gets done.
HB 44 helps to address some of these situations, and as such, is worthy of the governor's signature.
May 11, 2018
Peninsula Clarion: Time to share the road
A heads up to Kenai Peninsula motorists: While it's been a chilly spring, the street sweepers have been doing their job, which means it is time to share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists, runners, and walkers.
And a heads up to all those motorcyclists, bicyclists, runners and walkers out sharing the road: you also have a responsibility to make sure you are doing so safely.
Winter road conditions in Alaska demand drivers be alert and attentive at all times. But just because the ice has melted and daylight hours stretch from early morning to late at night, now is not the time to let down our guard. In fact, it's time to be extra attentive, especially along Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Kenai Spur Highway, where the bike path and Unity Trail get heavy use all season.
Likewise, those out enjoying the central Peninsula by bike, in-line skates, or on foot, need to know — and follow — the rules of the road.
Bicyclists who ride on the roadway need to obey traffic laws, including stopping at red lights and signaling turns. Make sure your bike has the proper reflectors and lights. Be predictable — don't weave on and off of the bike path, for example, or cut in front of traffic without looking. Make yourself visible. Neon colors are back in fashion, and they are a great way to help make sure everyone else can see you.
If you're riding on the bike path, be aware that there's rules of the road there, too. Pedestrians always have the right of way. Pay careful attention where the path crosses roads and driveways. Parents, if your child getting out on his or her bike for the first time this season, now is a good time for a refresher on safety rules.
Most importantly, whether you're riding on the road, on the trail, or at the skate park, a kid or an adult, wear a properly fitted helmet.
For those using roads, sidewalks and paths on foot, many of the same rules apply. Be visible, look both ways, and be aware of and considerate to other users who might be moving a little faster or slower.
We hope the weather continues to improve, and long sunny days provide plenty of opportunity for exercise and recreation — and we hope everyone, visitors and residents alike, are able to do so safely.
May 13, 2018
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: SB 26's passage a win for Alaska
Permanent fund will help fund government operating budget and Alaskans' PFD
Alaska's legislators took a large step toward closing the budget gap, and we can finally sigh with relief. Because, from 2013 through 2017, legislators chose to drain the state's budget reserves to keep the government moving. During that time, the statutory and constitutional budget reserves lost a combined $14 billion. Now the reserve has only $2.4 billion left.
On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Walker's Senate Bill 26 passed, 13-6, in the Senate and 23-17 in the House. It allows for a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to be used to fund the state's operating budget and the annual Permanent Fund Dividend. Studies of the permanent fund have shown that up to 5.25 percent of the $65 billion fund's five-year market value can be drawn annually and maintain a sustainable permanent fund. So, for the next three fiscal years, 5.25 percent of the market value could be used to fund the operating budget and pay dividends.
Starting in 2022, the state can only take 5 percent of the permanent fund's market value each year.
This first draw for fiscal 2019 will take $2.7 billion. About $1 billion will be used to pay out a $1,600 dividend.
The rest will go toward the operating budget.
Gov. Walker deserves kudos for his leadership in addressing Alaska's financial crisis, as do the legislators who voted for the bill.
No doubt some Alaskans will be gnashing their teeth over this bill passing. Dividends will be smaller than they could be as a result. And, it being an election year, politicians and hopefuls promising to restore a full dividend.
To anyone who is running for office and suggesting repealing SB 26 in favor of a full dividend, what is your solution to the state's budget trouble? Without SB 26 Alaska's financial situation would be dire. A small sales or income tax could be part of a state fiscal plan but would not come near to being a solution.
Voters should be wary of promises to restore a full dividend.
The bottom line is that passage of SB 26 is a positive step.