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From Our Listeners

Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Kodiak police seize $2.2 million in meth, heroin

Mon, 2014-04-21 10:23
Kodiak police seize $2.2 million in meth, heroin The Kodiak Police Department's seizure of $2.2 million in methamphetamine and heroin on Saturday was the largest drug bust in the department's history.April 21, 2014

Legislature marches past 90-day session limit, with education funding hanging in balance

Mon, 2014-04-21 09:47
Legislature marches past 90-day session limit, with education funding hanging in balance Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, called it "unfortunate" that the Legislature went beyond the 90-day limit, but said it couldn't be helped. Disputes between the House and Senate on House Bill 278, which began as Gov. Sean Parnell's omnibus education bill, have proven to be a sticking point. April 21, 2014

Legislature Passes Gov. Parnell’s LNG Pipeline Plan

Mon, 2014-04-21 09:24

The Legislature did pass the Governor’s liquefied natural gas pipeline participation plan.

The House voted 36-4 on the measure Sunday. The Senate later voted 16-4 to agree to the House changes. Senate Bill 138 would set state participation at about 25 percent in a project also being pursued TransCanada, the Alaska Gas-line Development Corp., and the North Slope’s major players. It would allow the project to move to a stage of preliminary engineering and design and cost refinement.

It also would allow the state to negotiate project-enabling contracts but they would have to come back to lawmakers for consideration.

AK Beat: Led by Tom Ritchie, 49 Alaskans complete Boston Marathon

Mon, 2014-04-21 08:49
AK Beat: Led by Tom Ritchie, 49 Alaskans complete Boston Marathon  The first Alaska woman to cross the line was Juneau's Crystal Dooley in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 29 seconds, making her the 340th woman to cross the line.April 21, 2014

Missed Deadline Pushes Initiatives To General Election

Mon, 2014-04-21 08:38

Because the Legislature did not meet its midnight deadline, three citizen’s initiatives are expected to be moved from the August primary to the November general election.

The switch would happen because of a constitutional rule requiring a 120-day waiting period after a legislative session before an initiative can be put to a vote. It would affect ballot questions to slow down the proposed Pebble Mine, to regulate marijuana like alcohol, and to hike the minimum wage. The rule does not apply to referenda, so a measure to repeal the new oil tax law would stay on the August ballot.

The rescheduling of initiatives is expected to help the anti-repeal effort, which the oil industry has sunk millions of dollars  into. That’s because the initiatives are expected to bring more liberal-leaning voters to the polls, and that increased turnout will no longer affect the primary.

This dynamic also triggered an ugly political fight in the Legislature, when a bloc of House Republicans passed a minimum wage bill earlier this month to preempt the initiative entirely. Republicans and Democrats accused each other of trying to game the elections, and initiative sponsors came out against the bill out of concern that the Legislature would quickly gut it.

While the House majority pushed their Senate counterparts to move the minimum wage bill through, they were met with resistance. The two bodies then engaged in a standoff, with each chamber holding unrelated pieces of legislation hostage to get leverage. But ultimately, the Senate did not back down.

Rules Chair Lesil McGuire said early Monday morning that the minimum wage bill is officially dead.

“The votes aren’t there. The votes haven’t been there all year.”

McGuire says some members of the Senate Majority oppose the bill because they see it as meddling with elections, while others simply are not in favor of the policy and believe it could have negative economic consequences.

With the addition of the initiatives, the November ballot will be especially packed because of the U.S. Senate race and the governor’s race.

With Education Standoff, Legislature Misses Deadline

Mon, 2014-04-21 08:26

All session, legislative leadership had promised to gavel out early, to be home in time for the Easter holiday. That didn’t happen. In fact, the Legislature did not gavel out at all. With the House and Senate struggling to make a deal on education, lawmakers are forced into extra innings.

By 1 a.m., the second floor of the state capitol had erupted into chaos. The Legislature had blown its midnight deadline, with the capital budget still in committee and debate yet to begin on a sprawling education bill.

The halls were crowded with lobbyists trading gossip, staffers pumping out amendments from copy machines, and dozens of advocates chanting and beating drums after the Native languages bill they were supporting had been held up in the political crossfire (it later passed).

Unless you were part of the Republican leadership team huddled in a closed-door strategy meeting, you were left guessing as to what was going to happen and when you were going to leave the building.

And that applies to lawmakers, too, like Democratic Reps. Chris Tuck and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins.

TUCK: Tonight? Well, tonight’s over, you know that? It’s morning. Depends on how many people speak under special orders. *laughter*
KREISS-TOMKINS: That’s what you call 1am humor.

When political leadership finally did emerge, details were scarce. Gov. Sean Parnell’s omnibus education bill had blown up because of a disagreement over education funding. The House had put extra money – about $75 million per year –  into the base student allocation, which enshrines it in the formula. The Senate’s version increased the number to $100 million. But the boost comes outside the BSA and is only guaranteed for three years, which has disappointed education advocates.

Sen. Charlie Huggins speaks to reporters during a Senate Majority press availability, March, 4, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

When Senate President Charlie Huggins emerged from the meeting, he ran straight to the bathroom before reporters could surround him. And when he emerged, details on the education plan were scarce.

BOB TKACZ: What’s the problem? Why are you guys hung up so much?
CHARLIE HUGGINS: There is no problem.
TKACZ: Well, it’s past midnight. You’re not done. You were going to get done 48 hours ago, Mr. President.
HUGGINS: Well, we’re waiting on the House. As soon as we get them lined up, we’ll be ready to go.

The House and Senate stayed in session until dawn, tending to the logjam of bills that had built up during the stalemate between the two bodies.

The House passed a popular crime reform bill, a bill that would allow a $250 million power plant at the University Alaska Fairbanks, and a bill that would seal criminal records that did not result in a guilty verdict. The Senate passed a measure requiring more public information on state regulations, and legislation to extend the senior benefits program.

But the education issue remained unresolved. Finally, at 4am, the Senate decided it was time for everyone to go home. Senate Rules Chair Lesil McGuire said it just made more sense to give people some rest before debating one of the session’s priority bills.

“The concern that we had was it’s not good decision making when people are tired,” said McGuire. “We have older members, and you can just kind of see people’s energy levels lowering, and you’re not as sharp as you would be.”

Lawmakers will be coming back in the afternoon, on the 91st day of the legislative session, to take up the education bill again.

 

Passionate believers in Native heritage prod legislators to recognize languages

Mon, 2014-04-21 05:19
Passionate believers in Native heritage prod legislators to recognize languages The Alaska Legislature gave official recognition to 20 Native languages. It's a symbolic gesture, lawmakers say, but it won approval shortly after 3 a.m. Monday in no small part because dozens of Native people who are passionate about their languages spent all day and most of the night in the hallways and galleries.April 21, 2014

Lawmakers approve refinery subsidy plan, excluding Agrium

Mon, 2014-04-21 04:55
Lawmakers approve refinery subsidy plan, excluding Agrium The Alaska Senate approved five-year subsidy plans for the Petro Star refineries and the Tesoro refinery at about 2:30 a.m. today. Critics said the companies had not made their case for the subsidy, which would increase the state deficit by up to $150 million over five years. The House adjourned at 4 a.m. without taking up the amended Senate version.April 21, 2014

Legislature sends $9.1 billion operating budget to Parnell

Mon, 2014-04-21 04:43
Legislature sends $9.1 billion operating budget to Parnell Lawmakers approved a $9.1 billion budget Sunday, which includes $5.8 billion in state funds, $2 billion in federal funds and $1.3 billion in other funds. Alaska lawmakers praised themselves for finishing about $50 million below their budget targets.April 21, 2014

I Am A Cupcake Warrior

Mon, 2014-04-21 00:19

After winning Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” Kastle Sorensen and her “Kastle’s Kreations” food truck have turned Alaska’s cupcake scene upside down.

Video and Story:
Slavik Boyechko

Music:
Starship Amazing

As session approaches end, Alaska Legislature signs off on gas pipeline plan

Sun, 2014-04-20 23:42
As session approaches end, Alaska Legislature signs off on gas pipeline plan The Parnell administration got what it wanted from the Legislature Sunday on its gas pipeline plan -- approval of a negotiating process aimed at developing contracts to perform the work necessary to decide if a pipeline will be built.April 20, 2014

Historic Alaska newsreels spotlight Last Frontier during territorial days

Sun, 2014-04-20 22:32
Historic Alaska newsreels spotlight Last Frontier during territorial days Newly-released historic footage of Alaska during its territorial days includes a 1932 silent film of grizzly bears frolicking in salmon streams, Mount Spurr erupting in 1953, and military training in the "lonely land" of the Last Frontier.April 20, 2014

How Barrow and Atqasuk could aid the search for life beyond our solar system

Sun, 2014-04-20 19:39
How Barrow and Atqasuk could aid the search for life beyond our solar system The two North Slope villages have little radio activity, making them ideal for the observations made by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.April 20, 2014

Growing like cobwebs in Alaskans' thawing yards, 'snow mold' can be nuisance

Sun, 2014-04-20 19:38
Growing like cobwebs in Alaskans' thawing yards, 'snow mold' can be nuisance Ever noticed that gray fungus that appears when the snow has melted but the temperatures remain cool around the Last Frontier? Well, that's snow mold, and it's harmless to humans, but a scourge for golf courses.April 20, 2014

The Arctic from space: A clear pattern of warming, thaw and melt

Sun, 2014-04-20 19:38
The Arctic from space: A clear pattern of warming, thaw and melt Temperature trends show the Arctic warmed about 1 degree per decade, on average, between 1981 and 2012. Compare that to the global per-decade average of 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the same period, according to NASA.April 20, 2014

Kenai Peninsula wolves prove resilient in face of harsh history

Sun, 2014-04-20 19:38
Kenai Peninsula wolves prove resilient in face of harsh history A history of wolves on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula reveals trials and tribulations -- both human-created and otherwise -- for the animals, including poisoning, hunting, trapping and disease.April 20, 2014

Legislature's plan to pay down retirement debt sets state up for big costs down the road

Sun, 2014-04-20 15:40
Legislature's plan to pay down retirement debt sets state up for big costs down the road The Alaska Legislature on Sunday passed a funding package to put $3 billion toward Alaska teachers' and public employees' retirement systems, but will cost the state an additional $2.7 billion in the years ahead, according to an analysis of the plan.April 20, 2014

Large herring run predicted for Togiak fishery

Sun, 2014-04-20 12:25
Large herring run predicted for Togiak fishery But with the potential for a well-supplied market, there is some concern about the prices taking a hit from the higher numbers of fish forecast in 2014.April 20, 2014

Legislators put $25,000 into draft budget to 'influence' initiative elections

Sun, 2014-04-20 11:39
Legislators put $25,000 into draft budget to 'influence' initiative elections One small item revealed in the Alaska capital budget late Saturday could lead to a big debate: putting $25,000 in the state budget for "information that may influence the outcome of an election on initiatives" this year.April 20, 2014

Alaska Senate passes $3 billion retirement funding package

Sun, 2014-04-20 08:51
Alaska Senate passes $3 billion retirement funding package On the second-to-last day of the 2014 legislative session, the Senate unanimously passed a big cash infusion to help pay down retirement debt for teachers and public employees.April 20, 2014

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