Rep. Justin Ruffridge, a Soldotna Republican who co-chairs the House Education Committee, speaks in favor overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Ruffridge: Working to get sponsored bills past finish line

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

  • By Rep. Justin Ruffridge
  • Thursday, April 25, 2024 10:58pm
  • Opinion

It has been another busy week in my office with four bill hearings, a bill presented on the House floor, meetings, committee hearings and floor sessions. With less than twenty days remaining in the current legislative session, we are working diligently to get our sponsored bills across the finish line and sent to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

House Bill 144 eliminates the sunset component of the education tax credit program, that is currently set to expire at the end of 2024. HB 144 passed out of the House Finance Committee on April 22. The Education Tax Credit program has existed since 1987 and encourages private businesses to donate to Alaska’s education programs. By repealing the sunset provision, we allow schools and businesses to plan further ahead and continue to incentivize donations. This bill is now headed for the House Floor where Representatives may offer amendments and ultimately vote on this legislation.

House Bill 195 moved out of the House Resources Committee on Wednesday, April 24. This bill creates a voluntary buyback program among Upper Eastside Cook Inlet Set Netters. Set netters in this area have been specifically marginalized through finishing closures, unlike any other fishery in the Cook Inlet. The permits would be bought back without the use of state funding, instead utilizing federal grants and/or donations from private organizations.

House Bill 371 passed out of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee on April 23 and moves to the Senate Floor. HB 371 streamlines the medical review organization process which exist to review causes of death, illness, and injuries. Review organizations examine data and draft reports with the goal of reducing such instances in the future.

Alaska currently has three medical review organizations: the Maternal Child Death Review Organization, the Opioid Overdose Review Organization, and the Congenital Syphilis Review Committee. Implementation of HB 371 will make it easier for such organizations to exist with the overarching goal of reducing avoidable morbidity and mortality among Alaskans.

House Bill 309 was heard and passed the House Floor on April 24. This bill would allow optometrists to delegate many routine tasks to their assistants. Current statute does not allow assistants to perform routine testing, even under the supervision of a licensed optometrist. The passage of HB 309 would greatly increase the productivity of optometrists.

Finally, Friday, April 26 a bill to address the ongoing issues surrounding correspondence programs will be introduced with hearings beginning next week. Education continues to be the number one priority for my office, and I continue to advocate for an omnibus solution to the education issues in our state, including a BSA increase, pupil transportation, reading interventions, and support for charter and correspondence programs.

As always, please reach out to my office with any questions or concerns by calling (907) 465-2693 or emailing Rep.Justin.Ruffridge@akleg.gov.

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