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Bjorkman park pass bill for disabled vets moves to Finance Committee

Kachemak Bay State Park near Homer, photographed in summer 2023.
Riley Board
Kachemak Bay State Park near Homer, photographed in summer 2023.

A bill that would allow disabled veterans a free lifetime pass to Alaska state parks and campsites is moving through the legislature.

Nikiski Republican Sen. Jesse Bjorkman prefiled the bill back in January, and it's been heard in the Senate Resources Committee three times over the past two months.

“I would like for our veterans, who have given so many years and many times their blood in service of our country, to have permanent access to our state parks, as well as campgrounds and parking,” Bjorkman said when he introduced the bill in March.

In its final Resources hearing Monday, the committee considered two amendments to the bill. The first made some minor language changes, and the committee adopted it.

The second would allow a pass holder to have more than one physical pass if they had additional vehicles, like an RV. But after discussing concerns about the number of stickers that would be issued, Committee Co-Chair Sen. Cathy Geisel suggested a solution.

“Why can’t this be like a handicap hang down device on the rearview mirror that is moveable from vehicle to vehicle?” Geisel said. “The veteran would get one, and that way it’s quite portable.”

Ricky Gease, director of the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, told the committee that strategy would be possible without changing the language of the bill.

“If you want us to have something transferable, we could provide one handicap-style design and work to get those manufactured,” Gease said.

The amendment was withdrawn, and the Resources Committee voted to move the bill on to Senate Finance. It will now need to go through the Finance Committee, Senate and House. The law would go into effect on January 1 of 2025.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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