Alaska News Nightly: February 11, 2009

Governor Palin says energy needs and fiscal constraint are her top priorities for the legislative session. Plus, Iron Dog snowmachine teams are thawing out in Nome on their mandatory 36-hour rest.

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Stimulus bill close to passage in DC; millions for Alaska projects
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
The massive economic stimulus package under debate in Washington is moving toward final passage in the U.S. Congress. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate announced today that they’ve reached common ground on their different versions. Exactly what that means for Alaska isn’t yet known. The State anticipates getting around $1 billion, but the House and Senate versions have substantial differences. One major difference is in infrastructure funding: the House bill includes about $240 million for Alaska’s highway and bridge projects, while the Senate version runs $100 million less. The final bill is expected to be somewhere in between.

Palin takes questions on federal stimulus, more
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Governor Sarah Palin addressed the federal stimulus package and a range of other issues in an hour-long press conference that was open to any questions from reporters. It was Palin’s first such encounter this legislative session.

Representatives Gara and Davis push for foster care reforms
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Legislation aimed at fixing gaps in Alaska’s foster care system was introduced today by two Anchorage Democrats. Representative Les Gara and Senator Bettye Davis have proposed bills that would work to help foster children as they are transitioning from State care into life on their own as young adults. On the House floor today Representative Gara said a staggering 40% of foster children in Alaska end up homeless at some point.

Palmer agriculture conference may bear fruit
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Alaska-grown apples, blueberries and even cherries may be available in your local grocery store in the not-too-distant future. The fruit growing industry in the state is still in the start-up stages, but interest in the field is expanding rapidly. A yearly agriculture conference that wrapped up today in Palmer included fruit growers for the first time. Stephen Brown, an agriculture specialist with UAF’s Cooperative Extension Service, organized the conference.

Alaska’s hiring freeze won’t apply to many seasonal jobs
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The Palin administration is exempting seasonal ferry workers, road crews and firefighters from its statewide hiring freeze. It’s also clarified some other details of the freeze, announced during the governor’s State of the State address.

‘Iron Dogs’ taking a break in Nome
Paul Korchin, KNOM – Nome
Athletes are thawing out as the Iron Dog Snowmachine Race takes it’s day-and-a-half midway layover in Nome.

Denali Borough land annexation largely denied by State
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The State has issued a decision on lands proposed for transfer to the Denali Borough and some contested acreage has been left out. The parcels were sought as part of the Borough’s municipal entitlement and require reclassification to change hands. The Borough’s wish list included property north of Glitter Gulch and along the Stampede Road.

Federal subsidy to Alaska Airlines will continue for rural Southeast services
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
The federal government has again selected Alaska Airlines as the Essential Air Service (EAS) carrier for Petersburg, Wrangell, Gustavus, Cordova and Yakutat. The EAS program subsidizes the cost of daily flights to remote communities and that cost is going up.