Legislators’ prefiled bills released

JUNEAU — Bills that would ax recommended salary increases for top state officials, institute crisis training programs for schools and limit use of drones by law enforcement were among the first wave of legislation filed Friday ahead of the upcoming legislative session.

Other measures include a proposed constitutional amendment that would make the state attorney general an elected post rather than an appointed one, and bills to repeal the high school exit exam, make Alaska Native languages official languages of the state and require the use of headlights when driving.

House Democrats also introduced a suite of bills they say are aimed at women’s health and opportunity, including expansion of a health insurance program for low-income children and pregnant women, which Gov. Sean Parnell has rejected in the past. Another proposal would require businesses to allow for earned paid sick leave, and provide unpaid break time and a private, clean place for women to breastfeed or pump breast milk.

“Making sure mothers have the time and a safe place to breastfeed or express will go a long way to helping them strike that balance between work and family,” Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, a lead sponsor on that bill, said in a statement.

Another wave of prefiles is scheduled for Jan. 17. The next session opens four days later, with bills held over from last session also still in play.

Among the new bills are two on the House side that would disapprove of pay raises recommended by the State Officers Compensation Commission for top state officials, one from members of the Republican-led majority and one from Democrats.

The commission had recommended salary increases for the governor, lieutenant governor and heads of the 14 main state departments, mainly referred to as commissioners. Parnell has said he would decline the recommended raise for his position, noting state budget constraints, but recommended that legislators approve the increase for commissioners, who he said have been without a salary increase for four years.

Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, proposed having the education department approve crisis intervention training programs for schools and allowing for school employees to administer prescribed psychiatric medication to students.

HB209, from Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, would impose limits on the use of drones by a peace officer. It would allow for evidence obtained using a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, to be admissible in a criminal case only if authorized by a search warrant. Unless authorized by a search warrant, a peace officer could not use a drone in a criminal investigation. However, a drone could be used to assist in emergencies involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person or imminent and substantial damage to property.

The proposal comes soon after Alaska was chosen as a test site for the integration of drones into U.S. airspace.

Higgins also introduced one of at least two bills that would repeal the high school exit exam.

Another was introduced by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, who proposed a separate education bill, SB107, that would require school district reading plans for students in kindergarten through third grade. It also would set up a system by which parents would be brought in to help decide whether a student in K-3 should be held back from advancing if that student still has a significant reading deficiency. 

Selected school staff could make the decision on their own if they cannot, after repeated efforts, set up a scheduled meeting with parents or if the parents skip a scheduled meeting.

Online: To see the full list of prefiled legislation go to http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/