JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Several new laws are taking effect in Alaska with the new year, the biggest of which centers on the state's oil production tax.
The oil-tax cut pushed by Gov. Sean Parnell and passed by lawmakers in April was the biggest legislative story of 2013 and could be one of the biggest political stories of the coming year: The tax cut is the subject of a referendum, and voters will decide in August whether to keep or repeal it.
Supporters see the tax cut as a way to encourage new investment and production, and say it is already working, but critics call it too big a give and blame it for a crash in state revenue.
The current fiscal year is divided between the former tax system and the new one; provisions of the new tax take effect Wednesday.
Other laws taking effect this week include:
— ELECTION CHANGES: The primary will be moved up a week, to the third Tuesday in August, of every even-numbered year under a bill that makes a number of changes to state election rules and procedures. When it comes to filling vacancies for U.S. Senate or House, a special election could still be called, but if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff would be held between the two highest vote getters. Political parties paying for print, video, radio or other communications will not be required to list their top contributors in those messages. Precinct or ballot watchers must be U.S. citizens.
— SMARTPHONE INSURANCE: A new law spells out rules for insurers to provide insurance for portable electronic devices, including cellphones, laptops and tablets. The idea is to provide regulation in the market to protect consumers, since insurance for the devices is often sold where the devices are purchased and not typically through insurance companies, according to statement from the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, that accompanied the legislation.