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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 42 min 8 sec ago

Feds OK to Process Visas for Roe Technicians

Tue, 2015-03-17 18:18

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The federal government can once again continue processing H-2b visas, the program that traditionally allows foreign roe technicians to work in Alaska seafood plants.

Whether the visas would be available for the summer season was unclear after a court challenge in Florida. But the judge’s decision in that case is now on hold until mid-April. Dennis Phelan of the Pacific
Seafood Processors Association says that should be enough time to move this summer’s visas along. Phelan says Alaska’s 100-million-dollar roe industry depends on the H-2b visas.

“There’s probably only 100 of them that we’re bringing over, but it’s crucial employees because they are the representatives on the ground for the folks who are buying the product, in most cases Japanese companies,” Phelan said.

Phelan’s trade association represents nine companies with about 25 processing plants around Alaska. H2-B visas are intended for seasonal non-farm workers. To qualify, employers have to show they can’t fill the positions with U.S. workers. Last year, H2-bs for Alaska jobs were primarily for roe technicians, but several dozen also went to bolster the sales force at jewelry stores in Southeast Alaska that cater to cruise ship passengers. Phelan says his association is still trying to get the industry back in the J-1 visa program, which used to allow thousands of foreign students to come to Alaska to work in processing jobs.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 17, 2015

Tue, 2015-03-17 18:05

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Walker Introduces Medicaid Expansion Bill

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Juneau
After failing to expand Medicaid through a budget item, Gov. Bill Walker is trying again. On Tuesday, he introduced a standalone bill that would allow the state to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion, while also offering some reform measures.

Feds OK to Process Visas for Roe Technicians

Liz Ruskin, APRN-Washington
The federal government can once again continue processing H-2b visas, the program that traditionally allows foreign fish roe technicians to work in Alaska seafood plants.

Dallas Seavey First to White Mountain

Emily Schwing, APRN Contributor
Dallas Seavey was the first musher to arrive in White Mountain Tuesday morning.  It’s the second to last stop along the Iditarod trail.  Teams will take an eight-hour mandatory rest there, before they make the final push for Nome.

Premera Warns of Possible Data Breach

Lisa Phu, KTOO-Juneau
If you have a health insurance plan through Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, your personal information may be vulnerable to a data breach.  According to Premera, about 650,000 Alaskans are among the 11 million people potentially affected by a cyberattack of the health insurance company.  A Premera press release says attackers may have gained access to customers’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, mailing addresses and bank account information.

Iditabike Racers Reach Nome

Francesca Fenzi, KNOM-Nome
In Nome, onlookers welcomed the first racers off the Iditarod trail on Monday – but not for the iconic sled dog race, these racers had wheels.

Roe Herring Fishery Gets Two-Hour Notice

Rachel Waldholz, KCAW-Sitka
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery will be on two-hour notice starting 10 a.m. Wednesday the Alaska Department of Fish & Game has announced.

Tribal Members Move Ahead Toward Unifying Region

Ben Matheson, KYUK-Bethel
Despite having no quorum and no vote, tribal members at the Calista-sponsored Yukon Kuskokwim Governance Convention on Monday decided to move ahead with an interim step toward unifying the regional politically.

Rupert Delegation Lobbying for Continued Connections

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska-Juneau
Prince Rupert leaders are in Juneau this week to lobby for continued connections with Southeast Alaska. Budget cuts threaten to reduce state ferry sailings to and from the British Columbia port city. And policy differences have blocked construction of a new ferry terminal there. Rupert Mayor Lee Brain says the marine highway link helps economies on both sides of the border.

UAF Rifle Team Falls Short at Championships

Dan Bross, KUAC
The University of Alaska Fairbanks fell just short of a national title at the NCAA Rifle Champions on their home turf over the weekend.

Weather Doesn’t Stop Emergency Responders from Training at Dutch Harbor

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB-Unalaska
Chilly winds and whiteout conditions didn’t stop a team of emergency responders from mounting a unique exercise at the Port of Dutch Harbor on Friday.

Categories: Alaska News

Tribal Members Move Ahead Toward Unifying Region

Tue, 2015-03-17 18:03

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Despite having no quorum and no vote, tribal members at the Calista-sponsored Yukon Kuskokwim Governance Convention on Monday decided to move ahead with an interim step toward unifying the regional politically. Leaders put the future of a proposed regional tribal government first in the hands of tribal councils and set a deadline of 30 days for them to vote. If successful, the proposal would then go before individual tribal
voters who would vote yes or no on it.

Categories: Alaska News

UAF Rifle Team Falls Short at Championships

Tue, 2015-03-17 18:01

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The University of Alaska Fairbanks fell just short of a national title at the NCAA Rifle Champions on their home turf over the weekend. For the second year running, the Nanooks placed second to West Virginia University. The margin of victory was just 2 shots, with UAF taking Friday’s small bore match at the Patty Center, and the Mountaineers coming back Saturday, with just enough in the air rifle competition to nab the overall title in the 8 team competition. West Virginia’s Maren Prediger was the top individual shooter. UAF’s Tim Sherry was best Nanook in 8th place.

Categories: Alaska News

Weather Doesn’t Stop Emergency Responders from Training at Dutch Harbor

Tue, 2015-03-17 18:00

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Chilly winds and whiteout conditions didn’t stop a team of emergency responders from mounting a unique exercise at the Port of Dutch Harbor on Friday.

Categories: Alaska News

Premera Warns of Data Breach

Tue, 2015-03-17 17:54

If you have a health insurance plan through Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, your personal information may be vulnerable to a data breach.  According to Premera, about 650,000 Alaskans are among the 11 million people potentially affected by a cyberattack of the health insurance company.

A Premera press release says attackers may have gained access to customers’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, mailing addresses and bank account information.

Eric Earling is vice president of communications at Premera Blue Cross based in Washington.

“This is data going back to 2002, so this affects current and former members, in addition to other individuals and organizations with whom we may have done business,” he said.

Earling says Premera is the largest health plan in Alaska. It has about 110,000 current members in the state.

The health insurance company discovered the attack at the end of January and notified the FBI, which is now part of the investigation. Premera issued a press release about the cyberattack and notified employers and health brokers on Tuesday. It also plans on mailing letters to notify everyone potentially affected.

Premera’s offering two years of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.

Customers can sign up at the website premeraupdate.com or by calling 1-800-768-5817.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditabike Racers Reach Nome

Tue, 2015-03-17 17:14

In Nome, onlookers welcomed the first racers off the Iditarod trail on Monday – but not for the iconic sled dog race, these racers had wheels.

Jay Petervary, of Victor Idaho, and Jeff Oakley of Fairbanks, were the first to cross the burled arch in Nome on Monday night. But not for the race you might think.

Once called the “Iditasport Impossible,” the re-branded Iditarod Trail Invitational mirrors the 1000 mile sled dog race of the same name – with one major difference: These racers aren’t mushing a team of dogs – they’re
running, skiing or cycling across the finish line.

And, in some ways, man-power appears to have bested dog-power on the trail. The lack of snow, and icy trail conditions, that made the Southern Race Route impassable for dog teams this year actually benefited those tackling
the trail on wheels.

Cyclist John Lackey of Anchorage reached the half-way point in McGrath just 1 day, 18 hours, and 32 minutes into the race – a time four hours faster than the leading dog team on record.

Oately himself holds the current cycling record for the full course – an astonishing 10 days, 2 hours, and 53 minutes set in 2014. For comparison, if he’d been mushing a team of dogs, Oately would have placed 21st in last
year’s Iditarod race.

“You know, I just got lucky with that,” Oakley said. “That’s what it takes to do that kind of time. But this is the race that I wanted. I didn’t want to do a time trial to Nome last year. I wanted to go out and ride the Iditarod
trail. And this year we got that. I was a little bummed for the first 300 miles. I was like, ‘This used to be a winter race. But then I lived to regret saying that out loud.”

Indeed, Oately and Petervary ran into more than their share of winter after the halfway point. Petervary says the *real* weather kicked in just as the pair was leaving Tokotna.

“The trail just deteriorated from there, and speeds were slowing, and then it just dropped to negative 40 for about six nights straight,” Petervary said. And this is about the warmest day we’ve had since then.”*

After a grueling 15 days, 6 hours, and 29 minutes on the trail.  Oately andPetervary pedaled under the burled arches just seconds apart – so perfectly in sync that even their fans couldn’t spot the winner.

When pressed about who actually won, Oately points to his friend and competitor.

“Jay did,” Oakley said.

“Nah. It was — everyone who comes underneath this arch actually wins in the end,” Petervary said.

Petervary adds that, much like with the 1000 mile sled dog race, arrival in Nome is never guaranteed. Since the Invitational started in 2000, only 52 individuals have ever made it across the finish line – 34 of them on bikes.

Sharing a hug – and a toast – over their two-wheeled sleds, the two cyclists have little difficulty pin-pointing their favorite moment on the trail.

“This one,” Oakley said.

“This was pretty cool,” Petervary said. “Last year I rode in and Phil’s wife was here, my wife was here. And that was it. And it’s like, ‘Here’s a Coke.’ And that was great. I really wanted a coke. But this is better… We kind of rolled up and you can see the lights and it’s like ‘Oh they’ve got the Christmas lights for us. That’s cool.’ And then it’s like ‘Holy —. There’s people here. What’s going on? There must be something going on in Nome today.’”*

 

Categories: Alaska News

Dallas Seavey First to White Mountain, Maintains Iditarod Lead

Tue, 2015-03-17 16:36

 

Dallas Seavey was the first musher to arrive in White Mountain Tuesday morning. It’s the second to last stop along the Iditarod trail. Teams will take an eight-hour mandatory rest there, before the make the final push for Nome.

The church bell in White Mountain signaled Dallas Seavey’s arrival.

Seavey says he’s pleased with his run, but the defending champion says he’s not quite ready to credit his team with winning this year’s Iditarod.

“We’ve got so much on the line right now, so on the one hand I’m really excited to get to Nome, let’s just get this thing done with, get it in the bag, have it in the record books—you know? But on the other hand, I don’t
want this to end… This has been way too much fun with this dog team.”

Seavey has been in a chipper mood for most of the race. He says he’s never had as much fun driving a dog team, but he also says he’s worked for nearly half a decade to raise the kind of team he is driving this year.

“I mean coming in here today I was just looking at ‘em, up and down the team,” he said. “And every single one of those dogs is a super star. I mean I feel pretty privileged to be able to run with those guys.”

Seavey has won the Iditarod twice before. His dogs are known for their speed. He says his mushing style reflects their genetics.

“Speed is the name of the game for these guys, and most of the time I see people get good speed in their team they don’t hold onto it. They use it in the short term, and then they burn it up.” 00:14

But Seavey doesn’t like to run long, without giving his dogs some extra rest.

“So, you get ahead with the speed and then you give it back to them in rest. And that takes confidence in your dog team that they’ll get up and go fast again and again and again. They know if they go fast, I’ll give
them more rest… and I know if I give ‘em rest they’ll keep going fast, so  you have to trust each other.”

The final 70-mile run to Nome is not nearly as long as other runs along the Iditarod trail, and Seavey is unlikely to lose his lead, but the Bering Sea Coast is known for dramatic changes in weather and dog teams have been
known to quit unexpectedly. Seavey is well aware that the final push to the finish line s sometimes the most dramatic.

Categories: Alaska News

Roe Herring Fishery Gets Two-Hour Notice

Tue, 2015-03-17 15:47

The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery will be on two-hour notice starting 10 a.m. Wednesday,  the Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced this Tuesday afternoon.

A test sample taken from a body of herring west of Black Rock showed about 7% mature roe, which is low for the commercial fishery. But the Department said that percentage could rise rapidly over the next few days as less
mature herring separate out from those ready to spawn.

Fish & Game also conducted an aerial survey of Sitka Sound Monday and reported herring predators concentrated in the areas west and south of Crow Island and Bieli Rock.

This year’s fishery is being conducted as a co-op in response to historically low prices for herring. As a result, Sitka is expecting a much smaller fleet than in recent years.

Fish & Game was expected to hold a meeting for permit-holders and processors at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Westmark Hotel in downtown Sitka. That meeting is open to the public

Categories: Alaska News

Rupert Delegation Lobbying for Continued Connections

Tue, 2015-03-17 15:39

Prince Rupert leaders are in Juneau this week to lobby for continued connections with Southeast Alaska.

Budget cuts threaten to reduce state ferry sailings to and from the British Columbia port city. And policy differences have blocked construction of a new ferry terminal there.

Rupert Mayor Lee Brain says the marine highway link helps economies on both sides of the border.

“We see Prince Rupert as Canada’s gateway to Alaska,” he said. “This is the quickest way to get to Alaska. Most people don’t want to drive through the Yukon up to Alaska. So, we see this as a very important economic and partnership opportunity to continue on with this link.”

The Rupert delegation is meeting with Gov. Bill Walker and the House and Senate Transportation Committees.

The Prince Rupert mayor says Southeast Alaska should also pay attention to major construction projects planned for his city. They include container port expansion and plans for up to six liquefied natural gas plants.

“We don’t see it as just as a Prince Rupert opportunity. We see it as an opportunity for Alaska as well. That there might be an opportunity for trade and commerce and increased tourism.”

Brain spoke Tuesday at the Southeast Conference Mid-Session Summit.

Categories: Alaska News

I Am A Winter Cyclist

Tue, 2015-03-17 11:27

Winter weather doesn’t stop Ellie Mitchell from hitting the road (or the trail) on her fat bike. She picked up cycling from her dad, and now she regularly competes against him and other cyclists in the Anchorage winter racing circuit.

Categories: Alaska News

Dallas Seavey First Iditarod Musher Into White Mountain

Tue, 2015-03-17 11:20

Defending Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey at the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Patrick Yack, Alaska Public Media)

Dallas Seavey – the winner of the 2014 Iditarod – is the first musher into White Mountain. He checked in at 10:10 Tuesday morning.

Mitch Seavey and Aaron Burmeister are running in second and third place, respectively.

Jessie Royer and Joar Leifseth Ulsom round out the top-5.

All mushers are required to take an 8-hour layover in White Mountain before continuing the last Safety and Nome.

White Mountain is 77 miles from the finish line in Nome.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Front-Runners Headed For White Mountain

Tue, 2015-03-17 08:11

Front running teams are making their way for White Mountain Tuesday morning.

Dallas Seavey left the Koyuk checkpoint in first place Monday afternoon. He said he was not concerned that he may have to break trail through fresh snow and heavily windblown drifts.

“When there’s wind the drifts keep coming, so you don’t have to worry about flattening them all,” Seavey said. “You know there will be more for the next person.”

Seavey may have gotten lucky on his way to Koyuk after rival Aaron Burmeister spent several hours breaking trail out of Shaktoolik. But Seavey says just because a team broke the trail in front of his, doesn’t mean his dogs had an easy time.

Dallas Seavey’s team pulls into Ruby Wednesday. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

“I think Aaron had it easier honestly,” Seavey said. “What we had out here was s surface that had a little bit of a crust, and the first team that went through it, it held up two thirds of the doggy feet. Then the next team that goes through, there’s more holes and more teams are punching through.”

But Aaron Burmeister says the run was a game changer for his dog team.

“I never would have attempted that run knowing it was going to be snowing out,” he said. “I was expecting it to be windy, but it snowed six to eight inches in about four hours, dumped on the trail, created monster snow drifts and we ended up breaking trail through a white out.”

He says he had to switch his leaders out multiple times. He believes the run took enough energy out of his dogs, so that teams behind could take advantage. He says he’s not sure if he will maintain his second place standing all the way to Nome.

“I’m definitely looking over my shoulder right now, because that took a lot out of my dogs to get them here in this position,” Burmeister said.

Burmeister is running his fifth Iditarod. He has never run as far up front in any of his previous races. That’s the case for Jessie Royer as well.

“It’s kind of exciting because I have never been one of those teams before,” Royer said. “I’ve been top-10, but I have never been top five. It’s a nice team this year, I’m pretty happy with them. They are just doing a nice job.”

But Royer says she’ll be careful not to get too excited. She says there’s still a long way to go before Nome.

“There’s so many different situations you can run into,” she said. “I won’t be excited until Safety.”

Safety is the final checkpoint, 30 miles from the finish line. Before teams get there, they will take a mandatory eight-hour layover in White Mountain.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Leaders Headed For White Mountain

Tue, 2015-03-17 07:48

Dallas Seavey is the first musher out of Elim, as he heads to Golovin, then up to White Mountain, where he will take a mandatory 8-hour rest.

He was the first to reach Elim late last night, leading Aaron Burmeister by just over three hours. The two front-runners were followed into the checkpoint by Mitch Seavey, Jessie Royer and Aliy Zirkle.

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Categories: Alaska News

Fresh, Drifting Snow Slowing Progress Along Iditarod Trail

Tue, 2015-03-17 07:42

Aily Zirkle blew through Kaltag. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

In the final push for Nome, Iditarod mushers are making big moves and cutting rest, but fresh snow, and drifted trail isn’t only slowing the leaders – trail conditions have also slowed dog teams in chase mode.

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When Aliy Zirkle pulled her dog team into Koyuk, she was in good spirits, but her dog team was lacking their usually energy.

Zirkle summed up the 50 mile run from Shaktoolik in one word: Slow.

“I didn’t walk, although my dogs did,” Zirkle said. “I jog on the treadmill faster than we were going.”

Overnight, at least four inches of fresh snow fell along the trail to Koyuk. Back in Unalakleet, Zirkle hinted that she planned to make a move. She wanted to blow through Shaktoolik in an attempt to catch Dallas Seavey, but she says the snow slowed her team and ruined her plan.

“This was my – what do you call that when you throw that long pass?” Zirkle said. “This was my Hail Mary and I think they other team caught it and scored a touch down.”

Zirkle says her team is unlikely to recover.

Schwing: “Are you still in this race?
Zirkle: “Oh no, I’m not in it for first, that’s for sure.”
Schwing: “What are you in it for?”
Zirkle: “I don’t know I’ll get back to you on that too.”

Jessie Royer, arrived roughly a half hour after Zirkle.

“This snow is horrible. I do not like this snow,” Royer said. “It is just – I mean it’s not setting up. The dogs just work so hard and they’re not getting anywhere.”

Royer made a big push to catch the front of the pack, but of the teams running in the top five, hers has rested the least number of hours since Kaltag.

“Oh, I’m a little low on rest, yeah, but they’re doing alright though,” she said. “They’re tired, but they’re not exhausted.”

Royer is also realistic about how the race is likely to play out ahead of her.

“Oh, you know, Dallas is pretty tough,” Royer said. “Something would have to happen to Dallas, because right now if you look at the times Dallas and I are running, he’s running faster than I am and he’s three hours ahead of me and that doesn’t look good unless something happens.”

“Of all people I should know that it’s not over till it’s over, after it went down last year,” Dallas Seavey said.

Last year, Seavey didn’t know he’d won the Iditarod until after he crossed the finish line. A fierce windstorm at the end of the race shook up teams at the front of the pack.

This year, Seavey is running a similar race schedule. He was able to grab four and a half hours of rest in Shaktoolik and run to Koyuk in just over seven hours.

“We got speed, that’s our thing,” Seavey said.

As he cut up frozen food for his dogs with his ax, he said he was well aware of the dramatics moves mushers were making behind him, but he also knows they are cutting rest to keep up.

“You can do runs like that, but then you’re in deep debt to your dog team, you owe them rest,” he said. “So as much as the other teams have been running hard to get here, I’ve been resting hard.”

In his attempt to take that lead, Aaron Burmeister tried to run 90 miles to Koyuk from Unalakleet on minimal rest, but it took his team more than 15-and-a-half hours to break the trail.

“I know he had a much easier run than I did coming over here, because he was following a trail, he didn’t have to tell his leaders ‘gee’ and ‘haw’ every five minutes going through the dark with the only thing you can see for the sign of a trail was a reflector,” he said.

Burmeister says it was a gamble, but he doesn’t regret the move. The trail report calls for more fresh snow and heavy drifting, He says he’s happy to hand over the trail breaking effort to rival Dallas Seavey.

Categories: Alaska News

ASD asks legislature not to cut funds

Mon, 2015-03-16 21:48

The Anchorage School Board is asking the state legislature to restore one-time school grant funds to the state’s budget. The House passed a budget that removed the $32 million late last week.

The School Board passed a resolution during their Monday night meeting explaining how their portion of the funds – worth $8.7 million – has been used and why they need to keep it. The money goes toward pre-K classes, literacy coaches, and keeping early grade class sizes small – strategies that data says are effective at helping students succeed.

The resolution also says that without the funds, the district will have to cut teachers.

School Board member Kameron Perez-Verdia says they understand the extreme financial difficulties of the state, but the district needs the money.

“We’ve experienced four years of cuts. In many cases we’ve heard the term that we’ve cut ourselves so much that there’s nothing left and we’re cutting into the bone. So the loss of these funds would be significant for us.”

If the state government cuts $8.7 million in funds then ASD will also lose $2.1 million in local money because of funding caps.

Categories: Alaska News

After Breaking Caucus Rule, Reinbold Stripped Of Committee Assignments

Mon, 2015-03-16 18:11

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Last week, Rep. Lora Reinbold voted against the operating budget, breaking one of the House Majority caucus’ rules for membership. Now, the Eagle River Republican has lost her committee chairmanship, and her seat on all but one committee.

The meeting to remove Rep. Lora Reinbold of most of her power was short — under five minutes. While she was not in attendance, every member of House leadership was. Speaker Mike Chenault reassigned her positions in rapid succession.

“Herron will replace Reinbold on the Rules Committee. Rep. Talerico will replace Rep. Reinbold on the education committee,” listed Chenault. “Rep Vazquez is the new vice chair of the education committee …”

And so on. Reinbold lost her co-chairmanship of Military and Veterans Affairs. She was removed from every committee save for Community and Regional Affairs. Members of her four-person staff will be dismissed. While Reinbold will get to keep her office through the legislative session, other members of the House Majority caucus have already been asking about the space.

“In any organization, you have rules,” Chenault said following the meeting. “If you don’t follow the rules, there’s consequences.”

Reinbold’s offense was voting against a budget bill. She felt that the operating budget, which slashed 10 percent in agency operations, did not cut deep far enough.

“I don’t see the willpower to do that in a time of crisis,” says Reinbold, referring to the state’s $3.5 billion budget deficit.

Reinbold says the vote she took was for her constituents, not the majority caucus.

There are only two hard rules for membership to the Legislature’s majority caucuses. A member needs to support procedural moves, like committee assignments, and a member needs to vote for whatever budget gets produced, even if they do not like aspects of it.

Reinbold is in her third year as a legislator, and she voted for the previous two operating budgets — both of which were larger than the one that passed the House on Thursday. Reinbold says she agreed to the budget rule then because she wanted to give the caucus system a chance.

“I was a freshman, first of all, and I had to learn the process,” says Reinbold, before adding that she’s comfortable with her previous votes. “Government had been growing, and the first year we froze that. So that was a big step. Last year, we actually decreased it by two percent. So, knowing that I was a freshman and not on Finance, I wanted to give an opportunity to see how it worked.”

Reinbold says she decided to vote no on the operating budget after cuts that had been made to the education department and the university system were reversed.

The last legislator to leave the caucus system now serves as Majority Leader. Charisse Millett left the caucus in 2010 with then-Rep. Kyle Johansen over a disagreement over committee assignments.

“I didn’t enjoy being out of the caucus,” says Millett.” If I were going to go back and do it again, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Millett says she advised Reinbold against breaking with the caucus over the budget vote.

“Being someone who was out of caucus for two years, I told her it was difficult at best to be out of caucus. People you want to work with are less likely to work with you because they don’t trust the way you’re going to vote. When you give your word and say you’re going to vote for something that everybody works on, you’ve got to keep your word.,” says Millett. “Not keeping her word with our caucus members put her at a disadvantage.”

Millett adds that the point of the budget rule is basically to make sure a budget gets passed, instead of having fights break out over specific projects and line items. She says that Reinbold had the opportunity to influence the budget through the subcommittee process or through amendments on the floor. Reinbold was assigned to three budget subcommittees, and attended four of the 14 meetings they held.

“We have finance members that work 20 hours a day on formulating a good budget,” says Millett. “Opportunity to provide input into that budget was offered at every subcommittee level, and if you don’t participate in a subcommittee level, and if you don’t offer amendments, then you subvert your ability to do anything.”

Reinbold defends her subcommittee participation, noting she did not receive the assignments that she requested and that she had travel conflicts. She adds that she did not offer a floor amendment to reverse those changes because she was not optimistic about the chance for success.

With only one committee assignment, Reinbold will have less influence over the legislative process. But she is not worried about her ability to represent her constituents with fewer committee assignments. She says their reaction has been favorable.

“Overwhelming,” says Reinbold of the response from her district. “My mailbox is full, and I apologize to anyone who couldn’t get through. Unimaginable amount of texts, unimaginable amount of support on Facebook.”

Reinbold says she uncertain about her future plans. She does not know if she would rejoin the Majority Caucus if invited back under the same binding rules.

“I’ll have to give that a lot of thought,” says Reinbold.

The Democratic House Minority caucus has no requirements for binding votes, but does not expect Reinbold — a far-right conservative — to join their ranks because of ideological differences.

“In the spirit of being all inclusive, we would let her join, but I don’t think she would do it,” says Minority Leader Chris Tuck. “I think she’s enjoying her freedom. She voted against the budget for different reasons than we did.”

The Republican House Majority caucus now has 26 members, just short of a two-thirds share of seats.

Categories: Alaska News

Seavey, Burmeister First to Koyuk; Zirkle, Royer Behind Leaders

Mon, 2015-03-16 18:08

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Dallas Seavey and Aaron Burmeister were the first two into Koyuk Monday afternoon. Seavy led by only three minutes, though his 50-mile run from Shaktoolik was the fastest by far — only seven and a half hours. Aliy Zirkle and Jessie Royer arrived later in the afternoon.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker Names Two Fishermen to Management Council

Mon, 2015-03-16 18:03

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Gov. Bill Walker has named two Alaska fishermen as his top picks to serve on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The 11-voting member council manages most fisheries in federal waters. The terms of two Alaska members were due to expire this summer.

Anchorage resident Dan Hull, who currently chairs the council, was selected as the top pick for the small boat commercial representative seat. He fishes commercially for halibut, salmon and other species.

Seward resident Andy Mezirow was selected as the governor’s top choice for the seat intended for a recreational fishing representative. He would replace Ed Dersham. Mezirow is a charter operator who also fishes commercially for halibut.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 16, 2015

Mon, 2015-03-16 17:58

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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State Asks Court for More Time on Adoption Case

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA-Anchorage
The state today asked the Alaska Supreme Court for more time in a case involving the adoption of a Yup’ik child, a case that tribes say will determine how the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, will be implemented in Alaska, and show whether Governor Bill Walker is serious about campaign pledges he made to work cooperatively with tribes.

After Breaking Caucus Rule, Reinbold Stripped Of Committee Assignments

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Juneau
Last week, Rep. Lora Reinbold voted against the operating budget, breaking one of the House Majority caucus’ rules for membership. Now, the Eagle River Republican has lost her committee chairmanship, and her seat on all but one committee. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

Proposed Arctic Drilling Regs Take Holistic Look At Safety

Anne Hillman, KSKA-Anchorage
The heads of the two federal agencies in charge of off shore oil and gas drilling visited Alaska last week to discuss proposed safety regulations for drilling in the Arctic. They spoke with stakeholders in Anchorage and around the North Slope, including hosting a town hall meeting in Barrow.

Lease Sale 193 Decision Expected Late March

Anne Hillman, KSKA-Anchorage
The Secretary of Interior will issue a Record of Decision on Chukchi lease sale 193 by the end of March. The decision will determine if Shell can proceed with its drilling plans for the region this summer.

Seavey, Burmeister First to Koyuk; Zirkle, Royer Behind Leaders

Emily Schwing, APRN Contributor
Dallas Seavey and Aaron Burmeister were the first two into Koyuk this afternoon. Seavy led by only three minutes, though his 50-mile run from Shaktoolik was the fastest by far — only seven and half hours. Aliy Zirkle and Jessie Royer arrived later in the afternoon.

Anchorage Homicides, Shootings A Spike, Not Trend Say Officials

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA-Anchorage

Since the start of the year, Anchorage has seen eight homicides and a spate of shootings. Officials say the incidents in Alaska’s largest city represent a spike, but not an overall rise in violent crime. The remarks, which came during press conference at City Hall, was, just hours after a stabbing victim was pronounced dead following an early morning dispute. The pronouncement is at odds with widespread concerns over public safety.

Walker Names Two Fishermen to Management Council

The Associated Press
Gov. Bill Walker has named two Alaska fishermen as his top picks to serve on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The 11-voting member council manages most fisheries in federal waters. The terms of two Alaska members were due to expire this summer.

“Scrubbers” To Cut Cruise Ship Pollution

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska –Juneau
Cruise lines that sail Alaska waters are installing new pollution-control equipment. It’s aimed at clearing the air – and meeting new regulations. But it’s also dodging some stronger, more expensive measures.

Juneau Library to Launch Alaska Native Stories Project

Lisa Phu, KTOO-Juneau
The Juneau Public Library system embarks on an oral history project this spring collecting Alaska Native stories on educational experiences. The capital city’s library is one of ten picked from more than 300 national applicants to bring StoryCorps to the community.

 

Categories: Alaska News

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