The Alaska Watchman is keeping a close eye on the Alaska Legislature this session in order to alert Alaskans of measures that impact parental rights, sex education, abortion, religious liberty, human sexuality, education, marriage and family law, pornography and other social issues.
Our goal is to keep Alaskans informed of committee hearings and opportunities to publicly testify on critical legislation that could shape the cultural and social life of Alaskans. Below is a brief summary of legislation we are tracking.
ABORTION & CONTRACEPTION
- Abortion ban: HB 178 recognizes the right to life of all unborn Alaskans and criminalizes the killing any unborn Alaskans through abortion. The bill is sponsored by Rep. David Eastman.
- No right to abortion: SJR 13 proposes a constitutional amendment which clarifies that nothing in the State Constitution may be “construed to secure or protect a right to abortion” or abortion funding. Sen. Shelley Hughes is the sponsor.
- Insurance mandate for telehealth: HB 29 mandates that health care insurance providers provide coverage for benefits through telehealth – without requiring prior in-person contact with the patient. Planned Parenthood’s use of telehealth to distribute contraception (and soon possibly discrete abortion pills) has raised concern over broadly construed telehealth mandates. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Ivy Spohnholz of Anchorage.
- Contraception & Sterilization Mandates: HB 21 requires all health care insurers operating in Alaska to pay for contraception and sterilization for 12 months at a time. This bill is strongly supported by Planned Parenthood. Similar legislation has been criticized for violating the deeply held beliefs of insurers and those enrolled in such plans who do not wish to subsidize or help provide these services. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Matt Claman of Anchorage.
- Regulating telehealth: HB 97 regulates health care providers that use telehealth to dispense drugs without physically seeing patients. It also opens the door for physicians to offer abortion inducing drugs through the mail. Rep. Johnathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka is the prime sponsor.
- Repealing Obamacare: HB 135 ensures that the State of Alaska does not have to provide expanded Medicaid coverage as established by Obamacare (aka – the “Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act”). This bill was introduced by request of Gov. Dunleavy.
SEXUALITY & SEX-ED
- Prohibiting state-funded sex changes: HB 5 prohibits the state from funding sex-change operations or hormonal treatments for prisoners who wish to change the appearance of their sex. The bill is sponsored by Rep. George Rauscher of Sutton.
- Abstinence until marriage sex education: HB 7 requires school sex education courses promote abstinent until marriage. It also bans the teaching of homosexuality, gender identity and expression, erotic descriptions of sex, or the use of contraception to teens. Rep. George Rauscher is the sponsor.
- Gender identity & sexual orientation: HB 82 & SB 82 requires private businesses, nonprofits, schools, religious groups and others to violate deeply held religious beliefs regarding human sexuality when operating in the public square. These bills add “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression” to the list of protected legal classes. Similar laws have forced people out of business for refusing to promote activities that run contrary to their beliefs. In the House, the bill’s primary sponsor is Rep. Josephson. On the Senate side, Sen. Scott Kawasaki of Fairbanks is the sponsor.
- Pornography as a public health crisis: HCR 8 recognizes the pervasiveness of pornography as a public health crisis and calls for education, prevention, research and changes in public policy. Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla is the sponsor.
- LGBTQ Pride Month: SB 147 aims to establish June as LGBTQ Pride Month. Sponsored by Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson of Anchorage, it promotes the celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals in schools, community groups and public agencies.
- Sex Trafficking: HB 225 and SB 165 were introduced at the bequest of Gov. Mike Dunleavy. These identical bills create stiff penalties for sex traffickers, especially those abusing minors. They would also require that convicted sex traffickers be listed on the state’s sex offender registry. Additionally, a new crime would be created for those who seek out underage victims for sex trafficking, and people who have been convicted of prostitution while being sex trafficked would be able to have their conviction vacated.
RELIGIOUS & CULTURAL LIBERTIES
- Wearing cultural regalia: HB 152 clarifies that municipalities and schools may not prohibit individuals from wearing tribal regalia or carrying objects of traditional cultural significance at public events. While there is no mention of religious clothing and symbols, perhaps the bill will be amended to include these as well. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tiffany Zulkoski of Bethel.
- Religious rights for foster children: HB 191 safeguards the religious liberties of Alaska children in state custody by ensuring that a child is able to continue attending his home church while in foster care. The bill would also ensure that a child be housed with foster parents or agencies in areas that are accessible to the child’s church.
- No religious test for office: HJR 11 amends to the Alaska Constitution to clarify that “no religious test, secular or otherwise, shall be required as a qualification for any public office.” The measure is sponsored by Rep. Eastman of Wasilla.
- National/State Day of Prayer: HR 9 establishes a “state day of prayer” and encourages Alaskans to join with others in the community in “expressing thanks and praying for communities and leaders in the state.” Rep. Chuck Kopp of Anchorage is the sponsor.
MARRIAGE & FAMILY
- Removing ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ from marriage law: House Bill 202 would strike nearly all references to “husband and wife,” “father,” “mother,” “man” and “woman” from marriage and family law. These terms would be replaced with gender neutral terms like “person,” “spouse,” and “parent.” The bill is sponsored by Rep. Andy Josephson of Anchorage who is also a supporter of same-sex marriage and the LGBT movement.
- Easing Marriage Requirements: HB 148 relaxes marriage requirements by eliminating the need for two additional witnesses to sign a marriage certificate. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Matt Claman of Anchorage who is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage and the radical LGBT agenda.
SEPARATION OF POWERS
- Impeaching Supreme Court justices: HB 179 clarifies reasons for which the Alaska Legislature can impeach a member of the Alaska Supreme Court. The act specifically states that a judge can be impeached for “exercising legislative power.” This bill is sponsored by Rep. Eastman of Wasilla.
- Votes needed to override governor veto: HJR 15 and SJR 14 lower the number of votes needed to override a governor’s veto from three-fourth to just two-thirds of the Alaska Legislature. These bills are sponsored by Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- Selecting members of the Judicial Council: SJR 3 proposes a constitutional amendment requiring a majority vote of the Alaska Legislature to approve new members selected by the Alaska Bar Association to sit on the Alaska Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is a powerful seven-member group that decides which applicants a governor can choose from among when appointing judges, including Alaska Supreme Court justices. Currently, the governor appoints three members to the Judicial Council, while three other members are selected by the Alaska Bar Association, which has been criticized for providing left-leaning applicants for the governor to choose from. The other member of the Judicial Council is the sitting chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. Sen. Mike Shower of Wasilla is the sponsor.
- Terminating parental rights: HB 80 establishes that parents have a right to request a trial by jury before their parental rights are terminated and their child placed for adoption.
ARTS & CULTURE
- Repealing Public Broadcasting Comm: HB 69 and SB 67 repeal the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission which supervises public radio and television. These public outlets have been criticized for pushing left-leaning political bias in their coverage for decades. These bills were introduced at the request of Gov. Dunleavy.
- Changing state song: HB 193 alters Alaska’s state song by adding a second verse suggesting there are “bars among our cultures,” while pledging allegiance to “Nature’s flag.” The bill is sponsored by Rep. Andi Story of Juneau.
- Art in public places: HB 170 and SB 97 repeal the ability of the Alaska Council on the Arts to direct state funding for public art. The program has a controversial history with many disapproving of state funds for artwork that does not reflect community values. These nearly identical bills are sponsored by Rep. David Eastman and Sen. David Wilson, both from Wasilla.
- Pre-kindergarten expansion: HB 153 expands state funding related of pre-kindergarten programs for children as young as four years old. These programs have been criticized as free daycare under the guise of education. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Harriet Drummond of Anchorage.
- Consolidating school districts: HB 194 and SB 126 addresses Alaska’s shrinking student population by consolidating smaller school districts or merging them with larger ones. These bills are sponsored by Rep. Sarah Vance of Homer and Sen. Shower of Wasilla.
- Expanding Tribal governance of schools: SB 136 grants tribal leaders greater control over public education in Alaska’s Native villages. Gov. Dunleavy supports the initiative. The plan allows tribes to oversee K-12 grade schools, while infusing classroom education with a combination of Western and millennia-old tribal education models. Gary Stevens of Kodiak is the sponsor.
- Climate change committee: HR 12 sounds the alarm on global warming (which is now called “climate change”) by proposing that state representatives sit on a special committee to study climate change and brainstorm additional regulations for Alaskans. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Josephson of Anchorage.