Alaska News Nightly: March 11, 2008

Vic Kohring fights to stay out of prison, while Congressional critics try to shoot down earmarking. Meanwhile, the Clean Elections ballot initiative clears its first hurdle  and Lance Mackey and Jeff King fight it out over the final miles to Nome. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Vic Kohring hopes new evidence will keep him out of prison

David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
Convicted former lawmaker Vic Kohring has formally submitted the evidence which he hopes will keep him out of federal prison. He’s been convicted of corruption in court, but claims Judge John Sedwick was prejudiced against him because of a decade-old dispute between Kohring and Sedwick’s wife.  He says he wants a new trial, or at least a hearing on the matter.

House bill would share oil windfall with municipalities

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Municipalities across the state will share in some of the state’s oil tax windfall under a bill that passed the House today. The community revenue bill sets up a method to provide a minimum of $60,000,000 a year for the next three years by appropriating part of the state’s income when oil is more than $60 a barrel.

Congressional critics take aim at earmarks
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Critics of the congressional practice of earmarking federal spending for projects back home are hoping for a showdown later this week when the Senate and House debate a 2009 budget blueprint. In the Senate, a group including Republican presidential candidate John McCain plans to offer an amendment effectively calling for a year-long moratorium on earmarking in appropriations bills, authorization bills or any other legislation that moves through Congress. South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint believes public anger over things like Alaska’s ‘bridges to nowhere’ and election-year angst some politicians have about earmarks could force a change

House bill targets illegal harvesting of bear parts

Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Supporters and critics of a bill aimed at curbing illegal harvesting of bears for their gall bladders squared off at a US House hearing today. An existing law known as the Lacey Act prohibits import, export, transportation, sale or purchase of animal or plant wildlife taken
illegally against US laws, regulations or treaties.  The bill put under the spotlight today would amend the Lacey Act to bar trade in viscera from illegally harvested bears.  Bears are poached for their gallbladders and bile, which are used in Asian medicines and aphrodisiacs.

Iditarod down to final push – winner expected overnight

Libby Casey, KUAC – White Mountain
The race is on in the Iditarod as the two front runners begin the final 77 miles to Nome.  A winner is expected in early tomorrow morning.  Lance Mackey left the White Mountain checkpoint at 4:53 this afternoon, and Jeff King will follow him out nearly an hour later at 5:50.  The next group of mushers vying for third are more than four hours behind, giving the two leaders a wide berth.  Ramey Smith, Ken Anderson, Hans Gatt and Martin Buser are all taking their mandatory 8 hour rests in White Mountain in a tightly packed group. They’ll leave the checkpoint within a half hour of each other at  11:44 tonight.

Fairbanks struggles with childcare shortage

Lacie Grosvold, KUAC – Fairbanks
A shortage of childcare in Fairbanks is putting working  parents in a bind.  The city lost more than 300 spots for childcare in the past year due to facility closures, and the situation is getting worse.

Clean Elections ballot initiative certified

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Lt. Governor Sean Parnell certified 3 ballot iniatives today. One seeks to create a system of public financing for campaigns. Tim June is with Alaskans for Clean Elections. He says the initiative sets up an alternative system of public financing for campaigns that allow candidates to voluntarily use public financing rather than private contributions to fund
their candidacies

Federal statistics track snowfall in Alaska
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Its been a winter of extremes when it comes to snowfall across much of the state. In general, Southeast Alaska is well above average while the Interior is having an especially dry season. The federal government measures snowfall and water content at more than 220 sites across Alaska.