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Governor Introduces ‘Open for Business’ Legislation

Jan 22, 2020

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy today introduced four pieces of legislation upholding his initiative of making Alaska open for business by removing barriers to business and employment, as well as promoting responsible resource development.

“As Governor, I want to assure companies that Alaska is open for business by taking meaningful steps to lessen burdens on employers and encourage opportunities for our skilled workforce across the state. This means lowering burdensome regulations, modernizing outdated statutes, promoting government efficiencies, keeping our citizens safe, and maximizing the use of our abundant resources,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “These pieces of legislation introduced today are a step in the right direction, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure a more prosperous Alaska.”

The following Open for Business legislation was transmitted to the Senate today:

SB 156 – Unemployment Insurance Contributions

SB 157 – Professional Licensing Reform

SB 160 – Timber Sales; Forest Land Use

SB 161 – Geothermal Resources

Unemployment Insurance Contributions:

In Alaska, the Unemployment Insurance Tax is one of the primary taxes that employers must pay, and Alaska is the only state that has a fixed minimum tax rate contribution of one percent. This bill reduces the tax burden on Alaska businesses and employers by lowering the minimum tax rate for certain employers while preserving the health of Alaska Unemployment Trust Fund, ensuring Alaska workers are able to access benefits when necessary.

“Lowering the employment security tax will benefit more than 6,000 Alaskan employers. These are employers with a stable workforce who are paying a disproportionately high tax based on the low turnover of their employee base. The unemployment trust fund is strong, and these changes will not affect the fund’s long-term sustainability,” said Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Professional Licensing Reform:
This bill will streamline professional licensing provisions and increase the efficiency of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, as well as multiple boards that oversee professional licensing, while maintaining standards for Alaskans safety. This legislation addresses current inconsistencies regarding temporary professional licenses, allowing temporary license-holders to work in their field while completing additional requirements for full licensure. This modernization would eliminate outdated requirements, align requirements with federal law, and eliminate burdensome regulation.

“The Professional Licensing Reform legislation will reduce barriers to practice in a variety of professions and moves toward ‘right-sizing’ government without placing the public at risk. One of the most exciting pieces of this bill is the Universal Temporary Licensure, which enables our department to issue a 180-day temporary license to qualified individuals in more than 100 professions,” said Julie Anderson, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. “This will get Alaskans to work quicker, reduce paperwork burdens on military spouses, and allow healthcare facilities to quickly hire much-needed staff.”

Timber Sales; Forest Land Use:

One-seventh of our nation’s timber is located in Alaska and these changes will jumpstart the recovery of an industry that has been devastated by outside interests. This bill consolidates three existing statutes into one comprehensive statute and encourages the public process without halting plans. This will result in more efficient land use planning and more predictable timber harvests, while retaining robust public and agency participation in the process.

Geothermal Resources:

This bill removes obstacles for exploration and development of Alaska’s geothermal resources by increasing time available for exploration from three years to five years, allowing explorers more time to conduct research, acquire permits, and perform necessary field work to locate a resource. Additionally, this proposal reclassifies the current permit system as a license system similar to that for oil and gas exploration and doubles the amount of acreage a company may have under lease from 51,200 to 100,000 acres.

“Everyone knows ‘Alaska has vast untapped resources,’ and it is long past time to turn that truism into action,” said Corri A. Feige, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. “I strongly support the governor’s forest planning and geothermal bills to use the energy of the earth and the bounty of our forests to directly benefit Alaska’s people, economy and environment.”

These pieces of legislation are expected to be introduced in the Alaska House later this week.