Articles written by Alaska Beacon

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  • Governor signs new law targeting opioid dealers

    Alaska Beacon|Jul 17, 2024

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy on July 11 signed into law a bill originally aimed at curbing the meteoric rise in opioid overdoses in the state, but which turned into comprehensive crime legislation that Alaska lawmakers approved in the final hours of the legislative session. Lawmakers built the wide-ranging law around Dunleavy’s proposal to increase penalties for fentanyl and methamphetamine dealers. The law also directs the state to look into why minority groups are overrepresented in the prison system, creates the crime of assault in front of a child, t... Full story

  • Senate president criticizes governor's veto of seafood marketing funds

    Alaska Beacon|Jul 10, 2024

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed $10 million in funding for the state agency charged with marketing Alaska seafood, with the message that he would “re-evaluate future funding needs after development of a marketing plan.” That doesn’t make sense to the state Senate president. “Waiting doesn’t help at all,” said Sen. Gary Stevens, from the commercial fishing hub of Kodiak. “It’s a very shortsighted view of the industry. Now is the time to help it out, not to just delay things,” Stevens said last week. The governor vetoed the funding on June 30 as par... Full story

  • Legislature passes budget with one-year school funding increase

    Alaska Beacon|May 22, 2024

    The 33rd Alaska Legislature came to a shuddering but active end early Thursday morning, May 16, as lawmakers passed the state’s annual budget and several high-profile bills. While legislators met their short-term goals, they didn’t hit some lawmakers’ big targets, including a long-term plan to bring state finances into order, significant changes to the state education system or a revival of a pension program for public employees. While the budget includes a one-time increase in K-12 school funding, legislators didn’t permanently raise the per... Full story

  • New law tells state board to follow court ruling on correspondence student spending

    Alaska Beacon|May 22, 2024

    Families who use Alaska’s homeschool program will soon have clarity on how they may spend their annual allotments of state money. Lawmakers directed the Alaska Board of Education to write temporary regulations for the state’s correspondence school program that comply with the state’s constitution. The law, passed on the last day of the legislative session May 15, also requires that the education department begin monitoring allotment spending for the first time in a decade. House and Senate members approved the bill unanimously. The move comes... Full story

  • House passes bill to make church vandalism a felony

    Alaska Beacon|Apr 3, 2024

    Vandalism directed at a church or other property used by a religious organization would become a felony in Alaska if legislation passed by the state House of Representatives becomes law. The House voted 35-5 on March 20 to approve House Bill 238, from Anchorage Rep. Andy Josephson, sending the bill to the Senate for further debate. “I think it’s rational to say that when you commit harm to a house of worship, it should be more serious” than a misdemeanor, Josephson said. He said the defacement of a church draws “community-wide reaction and res... Full story

  • Boss of proposed gas pipeline project is highest-paid state executive

    Alaska Beacon|Feb 21, 2024

    The head of the state corporation in charge of a long-dreamed Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline is once again Alaska’s top-paid public executive. Frank Richards, president of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., received $479,588 in compensation during 2023, according to the state’s annual executive compensation report, released in January. The state took over development of the proposed gas pipeline in 2016 when North Slope producers walked away from the venture, saying it was not economically viable. Richards was hired as pre... Full story

  • State will hire contractor to compare public and private employee wages

    Alaska Beacon|Nov 8, 2023

    The state has begun a sweeping analysis of its employees’ salaries to determine whether poor pay is contributing to ongoing hiring woes. The Alaska Department of Administration published a request for proposals, seeking a contractor to perform a comparison between state pay in Alaska, pay in the private sector and pay among other governments. The comparison will include 404 different job classes, including positions as varied as prison guards, archaeologists, ferry workers, tax auditors, and the people in charge of regulating the accuracy of g... Full story

  • Over half of Alaska-born residents leave the state

    Alaska Beacon|Sep 20, 2023

    More than half of Alaskans born within the state have moved away, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. A state’s ability to retain Alaska-born residents is an indicator of its economic health and attractiveness, and the state ranked near the bottom of the analysis conducted by University of North Florida professor Madeline Zavodny and two experts at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Using data from the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, they found Alaska ret... Full story

  • State loses lawsuit over contaminated lands given to Native corporations

    Alaska Beacon|Jul 26, 2023

    A federal judge on July 18 dismissed a year-old lawsuit by the state against the federal government over liability for contaminated land given to Alaska Native corporations under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. No Alaska Native corporations or Native groups joined the lawsuit, and in an order published July 18, Judge Hezekiah Russel Holland found multiple problems with the state’s arguments, ultimately ruling that they should be dismissed. The state had argued that three prior acts of Congress required the Department of the Int... Full story

  • Legislation designates October as Filipino American History Month

    Alaska Beacon|May 24, 2023

    October will be Filipino American History Month in Alaska if Gov. Mike Dunleavy approves a bill that passed the state House and Senate unanimously. House Bill 23, from Anchorage Rep. Genevieve Mina, is largely ceremonial — it does not declare an official holiday or require schools to teach lessons on Filipino American history — but supporters testified that passage of the bill would be an important honor. The first recorded Filipino visitor to Alaska arrived in 1788, and immigrants from the Philippines were critical to the operations of sal... Full story

  • Legislation will make it a crime to harass 911 dispatchers

    Alaska Beacon|May 24, 2023

    The Alaska Legislature has voted to criminalize the harassment of 911 dispatchers and threats against them. The Alaska House voted 37-1 on May 11 to approve Senate Bill 38, a measure passed 19-0 by the state Senate on March 17. The bill was written by Wasilla Sen. David Wilson and advances to the desk of Gov. Mike Dunleavy for signature into law after failing to pass through the Legislature last year. The measure was at least partially inspired by an instance when a caller repeatedly dialed 911 to protest Fourth of July fireworks. If Dunleavy... Full story

  • Legislation eliminates 1-year wait for commercial driver's license

    Alaska Beacon|May 17, 2023

    Newly arrived residents and newly licensed drivers would have an easier way to get a commercial license under a bill passed by the Alaska Legislature. In a 40-0 vote last Friday, the Alaska House approved Senate Bill 123, which would repeal the requirement that someone hold an Alaska driver’s license for one year before getting a commercial driver’s license. CDL recipients still have to go through the normal application process, which includes a written test, road test and physical exam. The bill passed the state Senate 20-0 on May 3 and now... Full story

  • New law will exempt low-power e-bikes from regulation

    Alaska Beacon|May 17, 2023

    Low-power electric bicycles would be exempt from state regulation under a bill passed by the Alaska Legislature and on its way to the governor for signature into law. The state Senate and House each approved the measure by wide margins, with only two no votes among the 60 legislators. Final legislative approval came May 11 for House Bill 8, sponsored by Fairbanks first-term Rep. Ashley Carrick. If the governor signs the measure, the new law will clarify that bicycles with electric motors generating less than 750 watts of power are not... Full story

  • Legislature approves quality testing program for in-state lumber

    Alaska Beacon|May 10, 2023

    The Legislature has passed and is sending to the governor a bill intended to reduce the cost of Alaska-made lumber for housing projects. After it is signed into law by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the legislation would set up an in-state quality testing system for lumber produced by Alaska sawmills. Currently, that lumber must be tested and graded by a national standards organization, and bringing an outside grader to Alaska adds significant costs, state forester Helge Eng said last fall. The state House overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 87,... Full story

  • E-cigarette use by young Alaskans tripled between 2016 and 2021

    Alaska Beacon and Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Alaska posted the nation’s highest rate of increase in electronic cigarette use by young adults from 2016 to 2021, according to a report tracking patterns in all 50 states. The rate of e-cigarette use by Alaskans in that age group more than tripled, from 4.8% in 2019 — the lowest rate in the nation at the time — to 15.8% in 2021, according to the report. The sponsor of a bill in the Alaska Legislature to impose a tax on e-cigarettes, vape sticks and other electronic smoking devices has said the tax is intended to deter young people from vapin... Full story

  • State Senate not interested in blocking legislative pay raise

    Alaska Beacon|Apr 5, 2023

    The Alaska House of Representatives could vote this week or next on a bill that would block a 67% pay raise for state legislators and a 20% raise for the governor and top members of the executive branch. Passage of the bill is anticipated — multiple members of the House Republican-led majority coalition and Democratic-led minority have already expressed their support of the idea — but leading members of the Senate said the idea is dead on arrival when it crosses the building and arrives in their chamber. Under state law, the raises will go ahe... Full story

  • Governor introduces bills for state to get into carbon credit business

    Wrangell Sentinel and Alaska Beacon|Feb 1, 2023

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy has officially unveiled a pair of bills designed for the state to make money from companies and investors looking to reduce the effect of greenhouse gas emissions by paying the state not to log timber or paying for credits that come from storing carbon dioxide deep underground. “There’s a burgeoning market for carbon credits, particularly in the voluntary market, and Alaska seems to be really well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities,” said John Boyle, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.... Full story

  • Pierce will stay in race for governor, despite sexual harassment lawsuit

    Alaska Beacon|Nov 2, 2022

    Republican governor candidate Charlie Pierce confirmed on Oct. 26 that he will continue his campaign despite a lawsuit accusing him of sexually harassing a Kenai Peninsula Borough employee while he served as borough mayor. “We’re in this race to the very end,” he said during a broadcast of KSRM-AM radio’s “Sound Off” program. Pierce, at 6.6% of the vote in the August primary, is far behind the other three candidates in the Nov. 8 general election for governor. “I think the honorable thing to do is finish what you start, and that’s what I... Full story

  • State proposes making it easier to grade Alaska lumber for local use

    Alaska Beacon|Sep 28, 2022

    The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is preparing a new program that would allow Alaska sawmills to sell lumber for local construction without having that wood graded for quality by an Outside inspector. The program was announced by Alaska State Forester Helge Eng on Sept. 13 at Southeast Conference, a gathering of Southeast Alaska political and business leaders. Eng said the program, which may take two years to implement, would encourage the growth of Alaska’s lumber industry by making it easier to use locally produced lumber. Many resid... Full story

  • Governor will sign tribal recognition bill into law

    Alaska Beacon|Jul 27, 2022

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy will sign a bill giving state recognition to Alaska’s 229 federally recognized Native tribes, the Alaska Federation of Natives said last week. In a ceremony scheduled for this Thursday, the governor will also sign bills creating child welfare and education agreements between the state and tribal governments, AFN said. State recognition is not expected to affect tribes’ legal relations with the state, but supporters have said it is an important symbolic statement by the state, which has historically fought efforts by tri...

  • Governor signs state budget; Wrangell funding intact

    Sentinel staff and the Alaska Beacon|Jul 6, 2022

    Though he vetoed funding for several projects and public services around Alaska, Gov. Mike Dunleavy did not cross out $4.1 million in state grant funding toward a new $15 million water treatment plant in Wrangell. The borough hopes to finish design work and go out for bids on the project later this year. Federal funds are covering about $11 million of the cost. The governor also left intact a one-time $57 million legislative appropriation to boost state funding by 5% for local school district operating budgets. The increase for the 2022-2023...

  • Trump scheduled at campaign rally in Alaska on Saturday

    The Associated Press and Alaska Beacon|Jul 6, 2022

    Former President Donald Trump plans to attend a campaign rally in Anchorage this week for candidates he has endorsed in the state, including former governor Sarah Palin who is running for U.S. House. The five-hour event is scheduled for Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. According to preliminary details released by the former president’s office, the event will begin at 11 a.m. with entertainment. A series of speakers will begin at 1 p.m. and continue until 4 p.m., when Trump is scheduled to d...

  • Former Anchorage legislator will stand trial for voter misconduct

    Alaska Beacon|Jun 22, 2022

    A state Superior Court judge signed a scheduling order on June 7 that will put former Anchorage Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux on trial later this summer for voter misconduct. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 12. The trial is expected to last 10 days; a start date has not yet been set. “I’m looking forward to it because it’s been a long time, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to clear my name,” LeDoux said last week. State prosecutors have accused LeDoux and two others of encouraging illegal votes in the 2014 and 2018 state legislati...

  • Legislation directs schools to help students with low reading scores

    The Alaska Beacon and Ketchikan Daily News|May 25, 2022

    By the narrowest of margins, 21-19, the House on the last night of the legislative session passed a bill implementing a statewide approach to how school districts intervene when students have difficulty reading. The session’s original reading legislation had been blocked in the House, opposed by several rural lawmakers and Democrats, but the Senate merged it into another education bill on the next-to-the-last day of session, forcing the House to accept or reject the entire package. The reading intervention bill was a priority of Gov. Mike D...

  • Democrat files to run for Murkowski's Senate seat

    Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Beacon|May 18, 2022

    A retired Matanuska-Susitna Borough teacher has filed to run as a Democrat for U.S. Senate in Alaska. Pat Chesbro filed candidacy paperwork with the state Division of Elections on May 11. She would join a crowded field of 16 candidates in the Aug. 16 primary that includes the incumbent, Republican Lisa Murkowski, and Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Murkowski has had a huge cash advantage in the race so far. The filing deadline is June 1. Chesbro’s campaign said she spent a career in education and is on th...

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