Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of 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)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of 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)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Wednesday night we adjourned the 33rd Alaska State Legislature “sine die.” The two-year Legislature concluded with the passage of a number of bills that will benefit Alaskans, a capital budget that includes $98.2 million for the Kenai Peninsula, and a $1,655 dividend this year with the possibility of increased energy relief check next fall.

This year, 10 of my bills, either on their own or inside of other bills, passed the legislature. The last week was a flurry of activity with seven bills crossing the finish line in the final days. All of these bills are on their way to the Governor for his signature.

SB 174 allows flags to be flown at public buildings to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country or while protecting public safety on a local police or firefighting force.

SB 196 allows the collection of saliva as a simpler and less invasive option for employees and employers to conduct drug and alcohol testing.

SB 179 was introduced to prohibit local governments from adding transfer taxes to the sale of houses and other real property. Three other pieces of legislation were added to my bill: the improvements to farming tax breaks I introduced in SB 161; legislation that allows municipalities to defer taxes on property used for economic development; and improvements to the required assessor qualifications and property tax appeals process.

I introduced three pieces of legislation to extend the sunset dates of the Big Game Commercial Services Board, the Board of Massage Therapists, and the Marijuana Control Board. All three were added to SB 189, sponsored by one of my Senate colleagues to extend the Alaska Commission on Aging.

In addition, I added language to:

support Alaska’s homeschool families by adding language to HB 202 that protects homeschooling in Alaska by providing certainty for the allotment program.

better ensure beneficiaries receive timely payments from the Workers’ Compensation Benefits Guaranty Fund to SB 147, which gives injured workers more time to recover before undergoing expensive evaluations.

make it easier for injured workers to stay on the job during their recovery under alternative duties and to return to work more easily once they have recovered, also to SB 147.

provide pay increases to teachers who achieve National Board Certification to HB 230, a bill that recognizes more of a teacher’s out-of-state experience when they take a job in Alaska.

remove restrictions on state agriculture loans to better support Alaska’s farmers to HB 251, a bill that addresses cottage food sales and herd share operations.

I am honored to be your State Senator and I want to hear from you. I look forward to being back on the Kenai Peninsula this summer and able to talk to you in person. You’re welcome to stop by my office at 145 Main Street Loop in Kenai, or you can call 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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