Alaska Governor Sean Parnell signed 11 bills into law during a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
A large crowd attended the luncheon to hear Gov. Parnell’s speech and witness the signing of several laws ranging the legislative gamut from worker’s compensation and medical malpractice issues to cattle brand registration, fishery resource landing taxes, and commercial crewmember licenses.
Parnell has made a tour of the state in the last few weeks signing bills in Juneau, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks — a tradition that, in part, brings issues decided in Juneau back to the constituents affected by them.
“We passed, what, 118 bills this session? Most people have no idea what happened. They know the big ones … but beyond that, most people don’t know what has been passed,” he said during a post-luncheon interview.
Before he signed any of the bills, Parnell spoke about progress on the Alaska Gas Pipeline Project which is in the pre-FEED, or pre-front-end engineering and design, phase.
North Slope producers ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP, pipeline company TransCanada and the state, have agreed to invest up to $500 million into the phase — a first for the state, Parnell said.
“No project has developed to this stage with all the necessary parties,” Parnell said during the post-lunch interview.
For the next 12-18 months, the pipeline project will be negotiated and developed before being brought back to legislators.
The advancement of the pipeline project heralds a larger oil and gas development upswing in the state, Parnell said during the luncheon, one that will require a skilled workforce.
Consequently, he said, the state needs to emphasize career and technical education opportunities.
“I don’t think we have the workforce to support the growth I see on the horizon,” he said during the interview. “We have to have a workforce that’s ready for (the growth) and trained. But more than that, it’s about the kids … it’s now just going to benefit our employers, it is going to benefit our people.”
Parnell said a highly-trained workforce would also be more competitive.
“More people are going to come (to the state) and we want to welcome them, but we want Alaskans to get those jobs first,” he said.
One of the bills Parnell signed, House Bill 141, was sponsored by Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna. It defines rates for workers compensation reimbursement when procedures are performed out of state by specifying that reimbursement must be billed under the statutes of the state where the procedure is performed. It also established a 180-day billing time line.
Olson said care providers from out of state were billing at Alaska rates, which are the highest in the nation. Some providers were also “back-billing” at the higher rate for claims that were already paid, he said.
Another, House Bill 250 was labeled the “I’m sorry” bill by Olson who said Soldotna Mayor Nels Anderson was the impetus for the bill.
It makes expressions of apology and compassion inadmissible as evidence of culpability in medical malpractice suits.
“This will allow a hospital, doctor or medical practitioner to talk to a family after something has gone wrong,” he said.
Among the laws sign was House Bill 231, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, which clarifies which government agency is responsible for registering cattle brands — the Division of Agriculture; and one sponsored by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, which raises the license bond amount certain contractors operating in Alaska must pay to operate in the state — those bond amounts had not been changed since 1982, according to Micciche’s sponsor statement. Parnell also signed HB 143, a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, which raises the cost of a non-resident’s commercial crewmember license.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The eleven bills signed into law by Gov. Parnell Tuesday were:
HB 250: Medical Malpractice Actions
HB 316: Worker’s Compensation Medical Fees
HB141: Workers Compensation Med. Fees
HB 167: Architects, Engineers, Surveyors
HB 169: Regulation of Telephone Directories
HB 231: Cattle brand Registration
HB 305: Junk Dealers & Metal Scrapping Licensing
HB 218: Sentencing; Aggravator/Deportation Status
SB 193: Contractors: Bonds; Licensing
SB 71: Payment of Fishery Resource Landing Tax