Articles written by Sean Maguire


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  • Legislature approves commercial fishing task force

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|May 15, 2024

    The Alaska Legislature has approved creating a task force to make policy recommendations to help the beleaguered commercial fishing industry. The Senate unanimously approved the resolution on Sunday, May 12, to establish the task force. There was only one no vote in the House, from Wasilla Rep. David Eastman. The task force is modeled off another legislative task force created more than 20 years ago to help the salmon industry. At the time, salmon fishermen were struggling with the pain of low prices and competition with farmed salmon....

  • Judge delays correspondence school order until June 30

    Sean Maguire and Iris Samuels, Anchorage Daily News|May 8, 2024

    State laws allowing correspondence students to use public funds at private and religious schools will remain in place through the end of June, but not after, an Anchorage Superior Court judge ordered May 2. Judge Adolf Zeman last month struck down two statutes governing Alaska’s correspondence programs, finding that they violated a state constitutional prohibition on spending public funds at private institutions. The decision affect hundreds or thousands of correspondence students across the state, depending on how the Legislature and Gov. Mike...

  • High school students statewide protest inadequate state funding

    Annie Berman and Sean Maguire and Alena Naiden, Anchorage Daily News|Apr 10, 2024

    Hundreds of high schoolers across Alaska participated in an organized walkout April 4 in protest of the Legislature’s recent failure to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of an education funding bill. The bill would have included a historic increase in state money for public education. Outside Eagle River High School in the Anchorage School District, more than 100 students stood outside in the blustering snow for nearly a whole class period chanting “Fund our education!” and “Save our arts, save our sports!” Similar protests — all organized...

  • State budget tight, with several big items still to be considered

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Mar 6, 2024

    State senators heard last week that based on current revenue forecasts, legislators will struggle to balance the budget with several big-spending items still to be considered. The nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division explained that items currently pending, like benefits for low-income seniors, funding needed to start upgrading the Railbelt’s electrical grid and a large increase in state money for public education, were not included in the governor’s proposed budget. Other spending, such as Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s insistence on $55 milli...

  • Bill would tighten resident definition for fish and game licenses

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Feb 7, 2024

    A bill before the House Resources Committee would tighten residency requirements for Alaska sportfishing, hunting and trapping licenses. Community groups have raised concerns that a gap in state law allows people who don’t live year-round in Alaska to claim residency to harvest fish and wildlife with cheaper licenses and higher catch or bag limits. The measure, introduced by Sitka Rep. Rebecca Himschoot, would align requirements to renew those licenses with requirements to get a Permanent Fund dividend. Like the dividend, applicants would n...

  • Juneau schools discover $9.5 million deficit; 10% of total budget

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Jan 17, 2024

    Juneau school administrators are facing a severe budget shortfall partly related to flat state funding and declining enrollment. But much of the crisis comes from accounting errors that “drastically” undercounted staffing costs. The city’s school board learned Jan. 9 that the district is projected to be $7.6 million in deficit for the current fiscal year and carrying over a $1.9 million shortfall from the prior fiscal year. The combined $9.5 million deficit equates to roughly 10% of the district’s total budget, and it’s expected to keep ball...

  • Southeast lives with risk of landslides - and more in the future

    Sean Maguire and Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News|Jan 3, 2024

    Over the past decade, landslides have cost Southeast Alaska communities in both death and destruction - 11 deaths and tens of millions of dollars in property and infrastructure damage. Now communities around Southeast are reckoning with a future in which more destructive landslides are likely, as climate change fuels the extreme rainfall events and storms that scientists say may lead to increasingly powerful events in the future. The most recent major landslide, on Nov. 20 at 11-Mile Zimovia...

  • Postal Service proposes new, higher-cost zone for Alaska and Hawaii

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Dec 20, 2023

    Alaskans could pay significantly more next year for mailing packages to, from and within the state with two price increases planned by the U.S. Postal Service. In an effort to reduce its projected $160 billion loss over the next 10 years, the Postal Service announced it is planning a 5.7% average nationwide price hike in 2024 for some shipping options. Customers using USPS Ground Advantage for shipping within Alaska would see a 9.2% average increase. The price increases are set to take effect Jan. 21, but some Alaska mailing rates from Outside...

  • Smaller school districts bemoan lack of funding for new reading requirements

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Jul 19, 2023

    Alaska’s smaller school districts, including Wrangell, are concerned about how they can implement a major state education overhaul with limited resources. The Legislature passed the Alaska Reads Act last year, intended to improve student literacy. The 45-page bill adds wide-ranging requirements for school districts, including that they develop intensive programs for younger students struggling to read. The new law went into effect July 1. The Alaska Department of Education has spent months working on outreach efforts and providing online t...

  • Legislative term-limit supporters try to get initiative on the Alaska ballot

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Jul 5, 2023

    A newly filed ballot measure would set term limits for lawmakers serving in the Alaska Legislature. State legislators would be restricted to serving a maximum of 12 years consecutively in the state House or Senate, and they then would be required to take a six-year break before serving again. They would also be limited to serving for a lifetime maximum of 20 years as members of the Legislature. Sixteen other states have term limits for state legislators, including California, Florida and Ohio. Alaska governors are already limited by the state...

  • Dunleavy, Sullivan criticize Trump indictment before reading it

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Jun 21, 2023

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Sen. Dan Sullivan, both Alaska Republicans, criticized the Biden administration for filing federal charges against former President Donald Trump. Dunleavy’s statement was issued before the indictment was unsealed June 9 by the U.S. Department of Justice. In an interview later that day, Sullivan said he stood by his statement, though he hadn’t yet read the indictment. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a frequent critic of Trump, said the indictment needed to be taken seriously. The former president is accused of ret...

  • State lawmakers will pick up multiple unresolved issues next year

    Sean Maguire and Iris Samuels, Anchorage Daily News|Jun 21, 2023

    The first session of the 33rd Alaska Legislature adjourned last month, with a lot of issues unresolved. “We were just tied up too much with the issue of the dividend and the budget and how we’re going to pay for things,” said Senate President Gary Stevens after adjournment. The slow movement on priority bills was tied to the protracted disagreement between the House and Senate majorities over the size of the Permanent Fund dividend, but also questions about other priorities. Lawmakers will reconvene in January 2024 for the second regular sessi...

  • Fishermen tell federal official loss of king troll season will be 'a disaster'

    Sean Maguire and Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News|Jun 14, 2023

    More than 100 salmon trollers packed a Sitka meeting on June 7 with sharp questions about the future of their fishery, facing what could be an unprecedented full shutdown of this year’s chinook trolling season. “I’m optimistic, but I’m also scared as heck,” said Eric Jordan, a lifelong fisherman and Sitka resident at the standing room-only meeting with federal National Marine Fisheries Service officials. The closure of the king salmon fishery in Southeast would be economically devastating, according to many in the region who rely on the valua...

  • School districts call on Legislature for permanent funding increase next year

    Sean Maguire and Iris Samuels, Anchorage Daily News|May 31, 2023

    Alaska school administrators are welcoming the $175 million in additional one-time funding in this year’s state budget, but warn that they’ll again face large deficits next year. Permanently increasing the base student allocation — the state’s per-student funding formula — was a top priority for many legislators this year. School districts across the state reported being in crisis after six years of essentially flat funding, high inflation and the end of federal COVID-19 relief aid. “The legislature has offered a spring bonus rather than...

  • Legislators consent to pay raise for themselves, governor and commissioners

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|May 24, 2023

    Alaska state legislators have failed to block a 67% pay raise for themselves and a roughly 20% salary increase for the governor and his cabinet. Under state law, legislators had until May 15 to pass a bill to block the pay raises — but never took a final vote by the deadline. The pay raises are set to go into effect July 1 for the governor and his cabinet, and in January for the Legislature. Back in March, the state’s independent salary commission held a 15-minute meeting at which all five members agreed to the substantial pay boosts. All of...

  • Legislature extends Medicaid coverage for new mothers

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|May 10, 2023

    The Legislature passed a bill Friday extending Medicaid coverage from two months to 12 months for a couple thousand new mothers a year. Senate Bill 58, proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, is intended to prevent gaps in health care coverage and to address the state’s high and rising maternal mortality rate. State Department of Health officials told lawmakers that 51% of births in Alaska are covered by Medicaid; those new mothers would benefit from the legislation. The Senate passed the final bill 19-1 on Friday. The House passed the legislation f...

  • Lawsuit over food stamp delays on hold while state tries to improve service

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|May 10, 2023

    Alaskans affected by monthslong food stamp delays have agreed to pause their class-action lawsuit against the state, with the Department of Health pledging to clear 50% of the backlog by mid-October. The lawsuit was filed in January on behalf of thousands of Alaskans who had waited months to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps. Under federal law, states must provide food stamps to eligible applicants no later than 30 days after an application is made. The state met with attorneys for the...

  • State sued over delays in public assistance benefits

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|May 10, 2023

    JUNEAU — An Anchorage civil rights law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against the state Department of Health over delays in processing applications for a program that provides assistance for thousands of vulnerable Alaskans. The state’s adult public assistance program pays an average of $308.20 per month, and is often supplemented by federal assistance programs, according to the Department of Health. During the past fiscal year, an average of 15,385 Alaskans received the monthly aid, alongside a separate transition program. In Wra...

  • House, Senate versions of state budget match on school funding increase

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|May 3, 2023

    The Alaska Senate rolled out its latest version of the operating budget on April 26, with a $1,300 Permanent Fund dividend, a $175 million one-time boost for public schools and a $90 million surplus to cover contingencies or if oil prices drop. The 17-member bipartisan Senate majority caucus — unlike the House Republican-led majority — has insisted that lawmakers should not draw from state savings to balance the budget. Following gloomy revenue projections last month, the House spending plan — with a $2,700 dividend — was projected to create...

  • Legislators say not enough time left in session for a sales tax

    Iris Samuels and Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|May 3, 2023

    Almost two weeks after Gov. Mike Dunleavy told lawmakers he would propose a new sales tax, legislators have yet to see the governor’s bill — and are still far from reaching agreement on the state’s fiscal future. Lawmakers broadly agree on the need for new revenue sources amid declining oil taxes. But any proposal from the governor, along with other revenue measures considered by lawmakers this year, are unlikely to pass with only two weeks until the constitutional deadline marking the end of the regular legislative session, key lawma...

  • State budget battle comes down to school funding and dividend

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Apr 26, 2023

    The budget battle between the Alaska House of Representatives, the Senate and the governor is shaping up as a fight between the size of the Permanent Fund dividend and a proposed increase to public school spending after years of flat funding. Dozens of education advocates rallied on the Alaska State Capitol steps last Thursday evening in support of a substantial increase to the state’s per-student funding formula. The formula has not been significantly increased since 2017, and school administrators have reported struggling to balance their b...

  • Alaska Supreme Court rules political gerrymandering of election districts unconstitutional

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Apr 26, 2023

    In a landmark decision, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled last Friday that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional under the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection doctrine. The decision follows a contentious reapportionment cycle after the 2020 census: The Alaska Redistricting Board was twice found by the state’s highest court of having unconstitutionally gerrymandered the state’s political maps by attempting to give solidly Republican Eagle River more political representation with two Senate seats in the 20-member body. Following a court...

  • PFD, school funding separate House and Senate in final budget weeks

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Apr 19, 2023

    With four weeks left before the May 17 adjournment deadline, legislators are focusing on the state budget and how to resolve big differences between the House and Senate over school funding and the amount of this year’s Permanent Fund dividend. The House approved its version of the budget on Monday, sending it to the Senate for certain changes. And while the major disputes are over how much to spend on education and dividends, and how to pay for the spending this year, many lawmakers also are kicking around ideas to generate new revenues in t...

  • House approves funding for more food stamp workers to clear applications backlog

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Mar 29, 2023

    The Alaska House advanced a targeted spending bill March 22, intended to address the state’s unprecedented backlog of unanswered applications for food stamp benefits and a shortage of public defenders in criminal cases. The budget bill is being fast-tracked through the Legislature so that the money can be made available quickly. It contains provisions to draw from the $2.3 billion Constitutional Budget Reserve — the state’s main savings account — to spend a maximum of $115 million for unanticipated spending needs for the fiscal year that en...

  • Lower oil prices cut deep hole into state revenues

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Mar 29, 2023

    JUNEAU — Falling oil prices are projected to slice $925 million from state revenues this year and next, bolstering the argument of legislators who support a smaller Permanent Fund dividend this fall and the years beyond. More immediately, lower oil prices have torn big holes in the state budget. The Department of Revenue on March 21 released new estimates showing a deficit of about $220 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30. Legislators have agreed to use savings to fill this year’s deficit by spending from the state’s Const...

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