Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks in opposition to an executive order that would abolish the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives during a joint legislative session on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks in opposition to an executive order that would abolish the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives during a joint legislative session on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Making progress, passing bills

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Several bills that I am working on or support made progress this week, moving through the committee process, passing to the House, and going to the Governor for signature.

I am proud to support the increased ability for Alaskans, especially senior citizens on Medicare, to control their health care choices by passing Senate Bill 45 on concurrence. The bill allows patients and health care providers to enter into direct health care agreements. In these agreements, the patient pays a flat, periodic fee for primary care services from a health care provider instead of billing insurance for every doctor’s visit. I am thankful that this bill reduces bureaucracy and increases a patient’s medical freedom.

My bill, Senate Bill 196, to add saliva testing to a list of protected testing methods for employers, passed the Senate unanimously. Testing saliva for drugs and alcohol is easier than other methods. An employee doesn’t have to have access to a restroom to collect the sample, and observing the process to confirm it is from the person being tested is less awkward for those involved. Testing saliva may also cost less than other methods, allowing for more frequent testing leading to greater on-the-job safety for employees, their coworkers, and members of the public.

Senate Bill 228, which extends the Board of Massage Therapists for six years, passed the Senate unanimously as well. This volunteer board provides important oversight of their industry, ensuring Alaskans are protected when receiving these services. Board members bring their extensive experience to setting qualification and continuing education requirements, applying updated industry standards, and assisting with investigations, which saves the state money. They also bring their experience to the review of applications and reject those that show signs of human trafficking in order to maintain the safety of Alaskans and the professional standards of the industry.

Senate Bill 164 passed from the Senate Resources Committee. The bill provides the men and women who have been injured protecting and defending our nation with free lifetime Alaska State Park’s camping and parking passes.

Senate Bill 182, which would extend the Big Game Commercial Services Board (BGCSB), was heard in the Senate Finance Committee. The Board plays an important role in managing the activities of hunting guides and transporters to protect the interests of the State’s wildlife resources. Senate Bill 248 would provide support staff for the all-volunteer BGCSB and passed from the Senate Resources Committee.

I’m holding a town hall meeting on April 20 with the Alaska Department of Transportation to provide updates on regional construction projects, report on the reduced use of road brine this past winter and get your feedback on winter maintenance. The meeting is at the Kenai Borough Assembly Chambers at 144 North Binkley Street in Soldotna from noon to 3 p.m.

I am honored to be your State Senator and I want to hear from you. You’re welcome to call my office at 907-283-7996 or email me at Sen.Jesse.Bjorkman@akleg.gov. I hope you’ll take the time to share your questions and ideas.

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