Lawmakers in Bethel are considering reshaping public decency laws within rural city’s limits.
A Seattle-based tour company is adding another vessel to its Alaska routes. Un-Cruise Adventures is one of several small-ship lines increasing capacity in what appears to be a growing market.
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring season is over.
The Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced the closure Thursday morning. After three competitive openings, the seine fleet captured just under half the 11,549 tons it was hoping for.
Spawning happened quickly in Sitka Sound. As of Thursday morning, about 44 nautical miles of spawn were visible in Sitka Sound.
Managers had trouble locating fish that hadn’t already ejected the eggs that make the commercial fishery valuable in the first place.
Seiners attempted to hold a co-op fishery to pick up more of the silver fish, but an entire day of fishing Wednesday yielded only 250 tons of roe-quality herring.
This is the second year in a row seiners have fallen short of the expected harvest. Last year, they were shooting for a nearly 29,000 ton harvest but gathered only about 45 percent of that.
Dozens of federal, state and local agencies have a say on how development happens in arctic Alaska. A report released today (Thursday, April 4th) makes the case for doing a better job coordinating the work those agencies are doing as big decisions are made on important arctic issues.
If your eyes glaze over when you hear the words “integrated management plan” you’re not alone. Mine did too, when I read the press release from the Department of Interior about the new arctic report. But Fran Ulmer has a better way to describe it:
“It’s a call to action.”
Ulmer is chair of the United States Arctic Research Commission. The report is called, “Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic.” It describes those rapid changes and many of the proposed developments in the region, in energy, tourism, shipping and even fishing. Ulmer says the report makes the case that in the past, agencies charged with making decisions on development, haven’t done a good job coordinating with each other:
“The piecemeal decision making approach, which has been mostly how things have happened, won’t cut it in the arctic, given what a very special place it is. That its both valuable and vulnerable, that its important to the people who live there, Alaska Natives, but also to the future of the state and to the nation.”
Ulmer says the report invites people to the table to do a better job coordinating activity in the arctic. Susan Murray, with the environmental group Oceana, is especially pleased the report emphasizes using science along with local and traditional knowledge when making big decisions. She says she’s optimistic the report will lead to more comprehensive planning in the arctic:
“It’s always good when we take the time to look and plan. It’s the times that we rush into something where we end up with mistakes and disasters and it is always heartening to us when we see our government stop and take a look so we’re not just doing it piecemeal and turning it into essentially a goldrush that we then have to correct in the future when we make mistakes.”
Along with the report, the Arctic Research Commission is launching something it calls the Arctic Science Portal. Ulmer says it’s an attempt to make research more accessible to the general public and to industry and regulators:
“It’s a door that unlocks other doors. So if you’re interested in what research has been done on ice or marine mammals or on anything else, it will help you find where you need to go to get information about that research. So it doesn’t answer the question about ice, it tells you where to go to get that.”
Ulmer says the web portal is still a work in progress. And that also describes the plan to do a better job coordinating development in the arctic. Ulmer says a lot of people in the lower 48 still don’t even realize the United States is an arctic nation. So it’s tough to get the attention and resources that are necessary for arctic planning.
It’s the classic symbol of spring in the interior. The first of thousands of migrating Canada Geese that stopover in Fairbanks on their way to summer nesting grounds in the arctic, were spotted at the Creamers Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge yesterday (Wednesday).
The election commission has started reviewing question ballots from Tuesday’s municipal election in Anchorage. But they won’t be counting absentees until next week.
In a small room tucked into a corner on the first floor of city hall, stacks of yellow ballots line long cafeteria style tables. The Election commission is tallying up number envelopes containing question ballots, cast throughout Anchorage’s 120 precincts during Tuesday’s municipal election.
Press Release 04042013 Several observers are watching because of a close race in the West Anchorage district, where Assembly Chair Ernie Hall was challenged by write-in candidate
Nick Moe. Moe got in the race just a couple of weeks before the election because he didn’t like the way Hall handled a controversial ordinance that stripped municipal workers unions of power. Hall led the assembly when they voted to shut down public testimony before everyone had a chance to speak on the ordinance. Hall had just 93 votes more than Moe at the end of election night Tuesday. Alyce Hanley is Co-Chair of the Election Commission. She is leading the review of the question ballots from the precincts on election day.
“When they went to vote they were not on the register. So now we need to look them up in the computer to make sure they are a registered voter. So that’s what we’re gong to be doing now. And just make sure that everything that’s needed is on here. We can tell by the birth date, by the drivers license, by the name — this person is registered to vote. Should count.”
There may be additional question ballots from the absentee by mail and the absentee in person voting, which will be counted once the official public canvas begins next Thursday. Amanda Moser is the Deputy Clerk of Elections. She says between question ballots and absentee ballots there are more than 5,000 ballots to be reviewed citywide.
“The total number of question ballots cast on election at precincts on election day is 1,017. There are 4,837 ballots issued throughout the city, absentee.”
Barbara Jones is the Clerk for the Municipality of Anchorage. She says, her office is following the rules very carefully.
“The code says that we don’t count any ballots until after the public session of canvas. So the public session of canvas is on Thursday, April 11th at 6 o’clock and then we’ll be counting the question and absentee ballots after that. And then after that we would be looking at any write-in candidates or races.”
As Jones explains, there is a write-in policy. It works like this:
“We do have a write-in procedure in our office. The way we handle write-ins is we will look at the write-ins if they exceed the votes of one of the candidates that’s already in the race.”
Michael Dunsmore says he believes that will happen. He is a volunteer with the ‘Write In Nick Moe Campaign.’ He says, it’s not scientific, but they believe Moe has the votes to win.
“Our rough estimate is that there will be, between absentee and question ballots maybe about 15-hundred more votes to be cast in that district. In order for Nick Moe to win he only has to pull about 55 percent of that vote. We strongly believe that the question ballots and the absentee in-persons will weigh heavily in our favor. The people who are politically active and politically motivated are the ones who are going to be using these alternative means of voting.”
The official public canvas, which begins Thursday, April 11th at 6pm, is a public meeting. That’s when election officials will present the number of question and absentee ballots they plan to reject and how many will count. Voters whose question ballots the commission plans to reject will be notified by mail. At the canvas, voters can challenge their question ballot if it’s being rejected.
- Press Release from the Municipal Clerk’s Office: What’s Next? PDF (April 4, 2013)
The group Numbers USA aims to “educate voters” in states with senators who could play a pivotal role in the coming immigration debate.
The group started airing an ad throughout Alaska this week that asks actors who “thinks Senator Mark Begich’s plan to bring in foreign workers to take American jobs is a good idea?”
Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, said Senator Begich has been tight-lipped on immigration since arriving in the Senate four years ago, except on J-1 visas.
J-1 visas allow foreign students to work in Alaska for the summer with student status. Fish processors contend the industry needs foreign workers who are willing to work the hours and for the pay.
Beck said he doubts the need for J-1 visas.
“It is a sell out if he trades his vote and votes for the entire amnesty and this huge increase in foreign workers. Anytime you increase the number of foreign workers, you drive down the value of wages for the American workers,” he said Thursday afternoon.
A group of eight senators is crafting a comprehensive immigration reform package. It would create a path to citizenship for the 11 million or so immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, so long as they paid fines and back taxes.
Beck dismissed that as amnesty, but Senator Begich called it a step in the right direction.
He said the new ad is full of lies.
“I don’t support amnesty, and I don’t support giving Social Security to illegal immigrants,” he said in a Thursday phone interview. “So I don’t know what they’re talking about.”
But he did agree with Beck that his vote for an overall package depends on whether J-1 visa reform is included.
“We may want to get this done right, and it may hinge on that,” he said.
The Senate reconvenes from a two week recess on Monday. The group could introduce the legislation as early as next week. Most expect debate to begin in earnest in May.
Four Anchorage area men have been arrested in connection with the sexual assault of a seventeen year old homeless girl. Anchorage Police say the four men, ages 19 to 21, are alleged to have detained, abused and sexually assaulted the girl in a home in suburban Eagle River. APD spokeswoman Dani Myren says the girl was picked up initially by three of the men
”All three of those suspects gave her drugs and alcohol, threatened her, physically abused her and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. At one point, the following day, the three perpetrators were joined by another man, named Joseph Sanford, and the alleged abuse of the young female continued. The sexual assaults reportedly took place over a two day period.”
Myren says the attacks occurred in March. She says the girl is now safe with her family.
The four men are Alex Metzger, age 19 , Ryan Poole, age 21 , Jesse Contreras, age 19 and Joseph Sanford, age 20
They are being held on a total of 33 charges.
The most recent version of oil tax overhaul has a new price tag: almost $5 billion over the next six years.
But as Mike Pawlowski with the Department of Revenue explains, that’s, “If the bill passed, and nothing changed from the way the Department currently forecasts the next five years, this would be the fiscal impact that we would see.”
Oil prices could end up being different from the state forecast, and that analysis doesn’t take into account any changes to oil production whether they be good or bad.
The version of the bill offered by the House Resources committee has a lot of moving parts, and a couple of them have indeterminate impacts on the state treasury. The way this version works is that it would set a 35 percent ceiling on what oil companies could be charged. When dealing with new oil, the state would let a fifth of the new oil go tax free and then give a $5 per barrel credit for the rest. With old oil, it would offer per barrel credit based on a sliding scale. At high prices, companies wouldn’t get the credit at all, with the idea being that the state should benefit from the rise in profits. But at prices as low as $80, the state would give companies an $8 credit. The argument for including that provision is to spur oil companies to invest in the state.
But that policy has Rep. Paul Seaton, a Homer Republican, worried about what happens to the state treasury if the price of oil crashes. He thinks it might not leave the state with enough protection at the low end.
“I’m concerned that $8 isn’t just at $80 a barrel. It’s everything below $80 a barrel. So, that it becomes a much higher and higher proportion of the profitable income that’s going to be excluded if we reach a time where we have low oil prices,” Seaton said.
The House Resources has spent Wednesday afternoon reviewing changes to the bill. More than two dozen amendments have been offered.
With less than two weeks left to the regular session, legislators are focusing their attention on the budget and with getting to a vote on major bills- like oil tax reform. Governor Sean Parnell sat down with APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez to talk about what he would like to see in these final days.
He says he’s not concerned that oil tax companies have testified the latest tax reform bill doesn’t go far enough.
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It’s not uncommon for federal officials to donate some money to the general coffer. Today, President Barack Obama announced he’ll return five percent of his $400 thousand annual pay.
Staffers at the office of the Secretary of the Senate say the gesture happens every year.
Senator Begich’s office is not saying precisely how much it will return just yet.
The senator is forcing more than half his staff to take furloughs. His spokesperson says the amount Senator Begich returns will be calculated from the money saved from those furloughs.
If one employee loses five days, Senator Begich will return five days of his salary.
Begich’s Congressional office was allotted more than $3 million dollars last fiscal year, with most going to salary. The second biggest line item was travel expenses. Official travel is covered.
Senate financial disclosure forms show Senator Begich could be worth as much as $3 million dollars.
Senator Lisa Murkowski hosted a Senate hearing on subsistence in Bethel Tuesday afternoon. Over 25 people spoke and many more turned in written testimony.
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Rob Kinneen is a chef from Anchorage and the founder of Fresh49, an organization that raises awareness in Alaska about the benefits of using local foods.
As part of his tour through Southeast earlier this spring, Kinneen stopped in at Sitka’s Mt. Edgecumbe High School and taught a cooking class. Although Kinneen is a Tlingit, with roots in Petersburg, Sitka, and Metlakatla, he is a ready hand with delicacies from other regions, including muktuk sushi.
Mt. Edgecumbe junior Shanelle Afcan is involved with the Fish-to-Schools program. She attended Kinneen’s class and sent this audio postcard.
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There were four bond propositions for infrastructure projects on the Anchorage Municipal ballot Tuesday, and they all passed.
All four bond propositions passed by large margins during Tuesday’s municipal election. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says he believes their passage as a sign that his administration is on the right track.
“I’m real please that all of our bond propositions are passing. For me as mayor, one of the best things that’s the best indicator of whether you’re on the right course or not is that whether the public supports your bonds. And I think the people feel that our fiscal situation has been restored, that we’re on the right track in terms of spending money wisely and when you get your bonds passed, that’s a good indicator.”
Proposition 1 secures 55 million dollars for educational structure improvements. Proposition 2 issues bonds for 2.5 million dollars for emergency service, public safety & public transportation expenses. Proposition 3 issues about 20.5 million dollars to preserve existing roads and drainage infrastructure. Proposition 4 approves 2.5 million dollars for park projects.
There were three other propositions on the ballot. Proposition 5 approved the Campbell Creek Land Exchange for improvements on Dowling Road. Proposition 6 amends the municipal charter to change Assembly member terms to 3 years. Proposition 7, which would have allowed annexation of property in road service areas without a vote of the the affected road service area voters, was the only proposition that didn’t pass.
There were two Anchorage School Board seats on Tuesday’s Election ballot. Bettye Davis and Eric Croft won them.
Former State Legislator Bettye Davis beat out incumbent Don Smith for seat A on the School Board. Davis said the Board needs to put children first.
“First of all, we need to do what’s best for the children. They’re our greatest resources. If we educate them early, we keep them from getting in trouble later — that’s why we have high dropouts. So those are the areas that I’m going to be working on. I don’t have a concern about looking for efficiencies in the school district that they might be able to save money, but I’ll do what I can to make sure we get what we can for our children.”
Davis says she believes her experience in the legislature will assist the board in securing funding for the district. Smith had held seat A since 2010. Attorney and former legislator Eric Croft beat out two other candidates for Seat B. He says his first priority will be rearranging the school board chambers.
“You know, my first priority — it sounds funny but, the administration’s back is to the public in the actual meeting room. And, while it’s a small point, I want to change that. I want to have it so they’re looking at us. I think listening to people is a big message of this night on the assembly races and on this. And then really diving into the budget numbers and figuring out how we focus all that energy on the classroom.”
Davis beat Smith by more than 3-thousand votes. She served on the School board during the 80′s and 90′s. Croft garnered nearly 60 percent of votes in his race. Another new board member joined the school board this week to replace Gretchen Guess. Kameron Perez-Verdia, who heads an education non-profit was appointed and sworn in Monday. Board members represent the entire city.
It was hit and miss for Assembly Candidates backed by conservative Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan in Tuesday’s Municipal Elections. And the makeup of the Anchorage Assembly seems as though it will be shifting.
“Cheering, Nick Moe! Nick Moe!”
That’s supporters cheering as the votes rolled in for West Anchorage write-in Assembly candidate, Nick Moe.
“It’s amazing the amount that this campaign was able to accomplish in two weeks. And regardless of the outcome, I am so pleased. I think we sent the message that the public process should be followed, that we should have leaders that listen to us not shut us out of testimony and the public process. Regardless of the outcome, I’m very happy. It’s very encouraging to be ahead this late in the game. But we still have a long way to go both tonight and we’ll see what happens this next week or so”
Moe and Assembly Chair Ernie Hall were neck and neck, trading places for the lead all night long. At the end of the night, Hall led Moe by just 93 votes. Hall received 3,628 votes, that’s 50.65 percent, while, write-in Moe had 3,535 votes that’s 49.35 percent. 26-year-old Moe, who works for the Alaska Center for the Environment, launched a write-in campaign late in the game. He said he jumped into the race with only two weeks to go in response to Hall’s handling of AO37, a controversial ordinance that stripped municipal worker unions of power. Hall oversaw a vote of the assembly which ended a public hearing before everyone had a chance to testify. Hall said Moe’s success was due to support of unions, especially those representing fire fighters.
“People are gonna jump on a bandwagon. In this case it was the fireman’s association that decided that decided that they wanted to get behind Nick Moe and help him get elected.”
Six of the 11 Assembly seats were on the ballot. Chugiak/Eagle River Candidate, Amy Demboski, who was endorsed by Mayor Sullivan won her race. The paralegal who also sits on the Mayor’s city Budget Advisory Commission beat out two other candidates to replace outgoing Chugiak/Eagle River Assembly Member Debbie Ossiander. Demboski said she ran in support of the Mayor’s controversial ordinance but she’s ready to work a reconfigured assembly.
“I live in facts and data and that’s the type of decisions that I’ll make. So regardless of what the other side is saying, or what my side is saying, if you will, I will always be fair and I will always do my homework. And the facts and the data will say what they will and our community will speak. And whatever my community says that they want, that’s the direction we’ll go in.”
Assembly Vice Chair, and Sullivan supporter, Jennifer Johnston ran unopposed for her South Anchorage seat. Cheryl Frasca, the Mayor’s former budget director, who was appointed to fill the West Anchorage seat left vacant by Harriet Drummond after she was elected to the Statehouse, lost here race to Tim Steele. Steele, a former School Board member said voters sent the Assembly and Mayor a clear message.
“Well, I think it’s a message from the voters that they’re not real happy. It seems to be a change election. We’ll see how it all pans out, but I think they’re mad as heck and they’re not gonna take it anymore.”
Midtown Assembly member Dick Traini beat out conservative challenger Andy Clary, whose politics align closely with Mayor Sullivan’s. Traini said he’s looking forward to change on the Assembly.
“There’s going to be a major shift in this Assembly. I think Nick’s gonna win it. We’ll see what happens. I know Steele’s gonna win it for sure. I think the public is speaking and we’re going to listen to them. If there’s a big change [we] should reorganize the Assembly and put it back where it needs to be, where everybody who comes down to testify gets to be heard, and we’ll go from there.”
Assembly member Paul Honeman, who ran unopposed in East Anchorage, agreed with Traini.
“It’s pretty exciting. You know past elections have been somewhat mundane on the assembly race, but with the write-in campaign and certainly right on the heels of what we just recently went through — a couple of weeks of pretty rancorous testimony from the public and not feeling like they’ve been heard. I think their message is loud and clear. They want to respect the public process. They want their local elected officials to listen to them.”
Mayor Sullivan blamed special interests for shifting the terrain of the election. He said they were responsible for upsetting Frasca’s race and giving Hall an unexpected run for his seat.
“Here you have again, special interests pouring a ton of money and a ton of ground support into a ground campaign against a candidate who, quite frankly, didn’t intend on raising any money. So I think it kinda put Ernie at a disadvantage, if you will. Ernie Hall is a great guy, a great gentleman, a great leader — he always tries to find consensus and I think be’s going to prevail in this race, ultimately.”
It won’t be known for a week or so whether it’s Hall or Moe who will prevail. Officials with the Municipal Clerk’s office say there are more than 22-hundred early ballots yet to be counted and an unknown number of absentee and question ballots. The write-ins don’t get counted by name unless Moe gets more votes than Hall. The Election is set to be certified on April 16th.
The day after a vote on a major infrastructure project, the House majority didn’t tout their political win. Instead, messaging focused on childish behavior from a Fairbanks Democrat during debate on the legislation.
Rep. Scott Kawasaki was filmed playing with his phone and sticking out his tongue on Monday night in the middle of a floor speech by Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) on a bill advancing an in-state gasline. The morning after, the Speaker’s press office circulated images of Kawasaki before announcing that the majority’s Interior representatives planned to chastise their minority colleague in a news conference.
Violations of the legislature’s uniform rules are not uncommon, but public condemnations of the transgressors are rare. Members of the media, including this one, responded with some incredulity that a press conference had even been called.
“Is this the first time anybody has ever been rude on the House floor?” asked Matt Buxton, of the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer.
Rich Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News asked Rep. Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole) why the group was singling out Kawasaki when others had used toilet humor that same night. A group of legislators laughed at the repeated use of the word “but” in one speech and some encouraged bill supporters to describe voting for it as “passing gas.”
MAUER: You and the other representatives weren’t there trying to convince him to make a fart joke at the end of the session?
WILSON: Oh, absolutely not …
MAUER: Gas? Pass gas? What was that?
WILSON: I didn’t see it that way. If you took it that way, then I’m sorry for that. But it was to make it short and sweet. We’d made our points through the night, and to me, it was not in that response.
Wilson was seen laughing at the phrasing during deliberation on the bill.
At the press conference, Rep. Pete Higgins (R-Fairbanks) explained that the reason for the scolding was that Kawasaki appeared to be openly mocking Chenault at a time when the Speaker held the floor. It was later established that Kawasaki was not reacting to Chenault’s speech, but a text message from someone watching the debate on television. Kawasaki stuck out his tongue at cameras to respond to that person, since text messaging is forbidden on the House floor.
No formal disciplinary action is planned against Kawasaki. Higgins said the group only wanted Kawasaki to say he was sorry for the way he acted. However, the five Fairbanks-area legislators cut the press conference short and rushed out of the room for other committee hearings before Kawasaki could address them. Kawasaki ended up offering his apology to reporters, and said that he regretted making faces during discussion of a bill that he ultimately voted “yes” on.
House Speaker Mike Chenault was not present for the press conference. But when asked later if his feelings were hurt by Kawasaki’s behavior, Chenault jokingly responded, “What feelings?” He elaborated that he was not personally offended, but thought the behavior was disrespectful of the legislature.
Earlier this session, Chenault was involved in his own controversy over comportment when a member of his staff inadvertently sent out an email describing the City of Valdez’s opposition to the gasline bill as a “crock of sh-t” to the city’s clerk.
A decision this week from the U.S. District court for the District of Columbia has big implications for Alaska tribes. In the case of Akiachak Native Community v. Salazar, the court affirmed the ability of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Alaska tribes. The ruling also states that Alaska tribes have the right to be treated the same as all other federally recognized tribes.
The suit was brought in 2006 by four tribes, the Akiachak Native Community, Chalkyitsik Village, the Tukuksak Native Community, the Chilkoot Indian Association and one Native person, Alice Kavairlook. They challenged the Interior Secretary’s decision to leave a regulation in place that treats Alaska Natives differently than other Native peoples.
David Barry is the tribal administrator for the Chilkoot Indian Association of Haines. The community of 500 members is located about 90 miles north of Juneau. He says the decision gives tribes the ability to engage in economic development on their lands.
“Most tribes don’t have a land base and what land they do have is fee simple, so this would protect our property by putting it in trust.” Barry said.
Barry says this isn’t a move toward reservations but allows them to protect their land and the office and housing buildings on it, from taxation and seizure. He says there is still a lot that needs to be understood about how the decision will impact tribes, but he says the tribal council is happy.
“We’ve been fighting since 94 to have this petition heard and finally reach a decision, so we were actually shocked when we won,” Barry said.
Barry says he is waiting on clarification from Native American Rights Fund Attorney Heather Kendall Miller about the details. Kendall Miller was not available to discuss the decision today. The Attorney General’s office in Alaska did not return calls seeking reaction to the decision. In a release NARF states the decision allows Alaska Tribes to petition the secretary to take non-ANCSA lands into trust and gives those tribes the ability to regulate alcohol, respond to domestic violence and generally protect the health and safety of tribal members.
In a late-night vote on Monday, the Alaska House passed legislation meant to advance the construction of a small-diameter pipeline. It would transport natural gas from the North Slope to Southcentral for Alaskan consumption and, potentially, for export.
The thing is complicated. It would make the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation its own separate entity, and position it to receive $250 million in state funds this year for design and permitting work, with at least another $150 million to come down the road. The hope is to eventually hand things off to private firms for construction of a 700-mile line capable moving 500 million cubic feet of gas a day. That would cover urban Alaska’s energy needs, and still leave some available for export.
Passage of the bill was a coup for Speaker Mike Chenault, a Nikiski Republican who had failed to advance similar legislation in the past. Wearing an Alaska bolo tie and Johnny Cash-style black suit, he handed over his gavel, stepped down from his podium, and gave a rare speech to the House.
“We’re all wanting the same thing, Mr. Speaker,” Chenault said. “We all want the cheapest gas – or the cheapest energy – that we can get to all Alaskans.”
Not everyone is happy with the bill. Democrats have concerns that it doesn’t do enough in the way of public oversight or consumer protection. They made multiple attempts to tweak the document. One amendment would have put into statute language prioritizing the Alaska market over foreign demand in the event of a gas shortage. Another would have given the legislature final approval of a pipeline plan before construction. As written, control of project implementation falls to AGDC and industry. Rep. Les Gara, of Anchorage, said the amendment was needed to give the public a say on whether the project should be built depending on how much it would bring down utility rates.
“The bill is written to say, by passing this bill, this is final legislative approval,” Gara said. “The public can talk all it wants in the future about how high the price of gas might be under this project, but nobody will be there to listen.”
He also argued that since the state was putting hundreds of millions of dollars into project development, the legislature should have some say on if the pipeline is worth the money before ground is broken.
Rep. Mike Hawker, an architect of the bill, responded that any pipeline construction and utility rate agreements would be reviewed by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska and an AGDC board made up of the governor’s appointees. He said that with the way the bill is written, North Slope producers, pipeline operators, and utility companies would all have to negotiate with each other and have incentive to agree on the best possible rate, which, in turn would get passed on to the consumer.
The Anchorage Republican’s opposition to the amendment also had a philosophical basis. The key principle for Hawker in drafting the bill was market efficiency.
“Why in the world would we want the legislature to interfere in a private sector transaction that actually moves a pipeline project forward?,” Hawker said. “I don’t think we ought to be there.”
All eight of the Democrats’ amendments failed, though a pair of measures concerning local hire received some Republican support. The gasline bill ultimately passed 30-9, with four representatives splitting from their caucuses on the vote. Democrats Max Gruenberg, of Anchorage, and Scott Kawasaki, of Fairbanks, voted yes on the bill. Neal Foster of Nome broke with the majority, along with Eric Feige, a Chickaloon Republican who also represents Valdez. The City of Valdez has been an advocate for a bigger pipeline, and it was behind a million-dollar advertising campaign against the bill because of how it could indefinitely sideline the AGIA project.
With less than two weeks left to the legislative session, the bill has been sent over to the Senate, where two committees will review the measure.
High school hazing would be outlawed under a bill introduced by state Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.
House Bill 189 (PDF: Full text) defines hazing as subjecting a student to the risk of physical injury for the purpose of initiation or affiliation with an organization. It applies to students from elementary school up through college.
The Sitka Democrat’s bill would make hazing a misdemeanor, unless it results in death or serious physical injury, in which case it would be a felony.
It also requires school districts to adopt policies against hazing and to file an annual report on any hazing incidents that result in suspension or expulsion. Districts already report similar cases of bullying and harassment.
Kreiss-Tomkins, a 2008 graduate of Sitka High School, says his bill is designed to clarify existing laws protecting students, and to bring more awareness to the issue of hazing.
“It’s unconscionable to me,” he said in a phone interview. “Both when I was an underclassman and watching it happen to my classmates, and to a certain extent myself, and as an upperclassman, when I watched my classmates who were once on the receiving end of it, perpetrate it. It’s just one of these cycles that has no place in schools.”
Kreiss-Tomkins says when he participated in high school sports, he witnessed hazing first-hand, although nothing as bad as what his bill would cover.
“Actually, I had well-developed evasive instincts,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “I’m not sure you could ever say I was in the receiving end of it. But my friends were, and I certainly felt intimidated by it, because it was happening to people all around me, and myself. And it would have happened to myself, too, if I wasn’t good at being not in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The measure also protects people who report incidents of hazing. House Bill 189 now sits in the House Education Committee, awaiting action.