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Today is Monday, April 2nd, otherwise known in Juneau as Day 77 of Session.

Moments ago the House of Representatives passed the Operating Budget after spending the past three weeks on the Floor debating amendments. One of the major contention points was determining the policy about using Permanent Fund earnings towards a combination of dividends and balancing the budget. In the final version that passed today, about $2.7 billion will be drawn from Permanent Fund earnings, with about $1 billion paid for dividends (about $1,600 per Alaskan), and $1.7 billion used to balance the budget. The budget now goes over the Senate.

The statutory deadline of 90-Days is April 15th, so it doesn't appear we will finish business and adjourn by then. The constitutional deadline of 121 Days is May 16th, which appears as a more realistic time frame for adjournment at this point.

Senate Bill 45 advances!

On Friday, SB45 moved out of the House Labor & Commerce Committee. It now is in the House Rules Committee, where bills are sent for calendaring for a House Floor vote.

This week we will be working with our bill sponsor (Senator Mia Costello) and legislators who support the bill regarding when they would like to see the bill advanced to the House. We will soon be asking all of our members to send messages of support to all members of the House very soon.

House Bill 79 advances!

HB79 is an omnibus workers' compensation bill that includes a definition of "independent contractor". This is a definition that our organization has sought for years in order to clear up who is a contractor and whether they are subject to workers' compensation requirements.

This morning the bill advanced from the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee, and now goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

Other Bills of Interest

On Tuesday, April 3rd, there will be a hearing on HB199

, a bill that creates a new state permit system for protecting fish streams. It's not clear whether this bill will pass the Legislature, which means it will be a ballot initiative in the Fall Elections. There have been numerous concerns expressed by resource development stakeholders that this proposal goes too far, while advocates have stressed the need to protect streams and rivers.

SB155, which allows real estate appraisal management companies to do business in Alaska, has passed the Senate by a vote of 19 - 0. It is scheduled for its first hearing in the House Labor & Commerce Committee later today.

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