Alaska News Nightly: March 29, 2010

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Debate Opens on Illegal Immigration
Dave Donaldson APRN – Juneau
Debate opened Monday morning on a bill re-asserting the state’s role in guarding against illegal immigrants by taking away their drivers’ licenses and state ID cards. The only thing that supporters and opponents agree on is that the vote will be close – with very few people from either side expecting victory on what has become a divisive measure. In presenting the bill to the full House, Anchorage Republican Bob Lynn told members that legal privileges are given only to those who qualify for them.

Vandals Break Window at Democratic Pary HQ
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Vandals broke a window at the Democratic Party Headquarters office in Anchorage over the weekend. Party officials say they don’t know what the motive was but suspect the incident was tied to the passage of national health care legislation last week.

Begich Updates Reporters on Indian Health Care Act
Ellen Lockyer, APRN – Anchorage
Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) is in the state this week during Congress’s Easter recess. Begich brought back an update on the new reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which he shared with local reporters.

Canada Hosts Arctic Ocean Conference
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Discussions about the Arctic Ocean got under way today between the foreign ministers of Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway and Denmark. Canada is hosting the event in Chelsea Quebec.

Cama-ii Dance Festival Wraps Up in Bethel
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
The Annual Cama-ii Dance Festival wrapped up this weekend in Bethel. The event was attended by two dozen dance groups and thousands visitors.

Senate to Vote on Electioneering
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Anchorage
A bill making public any corporate or union electioneering activity is on its way to a vote by the entire Senate. The measure moved from the Finance Committee on Monday after one change eliminating state restrictions beyond federal law on foreign corporations’ involvement. Direct contributions to candidates would still be banned, but Judiciary Chair Hollis French, a Democrat from Anchorage, said the bill does all that is allowed under a U.S. Supreme Court decision that opens all elections to private funding sources of formal campaign organizations.

Alaska Suing Ferry Contractor
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
The State of Alaska is suing the contractor that built the fast ferries Fairweather and Chenega. Since the Fairweather was deployed in 2005, the ship has been plagued with engine problems that often take it out of service for long periods of time. To some extent, the Chenega has had similar engine problems.

Small-Boat Fishermen May Have to Carry Onboard Observer
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
Some of Alaska’s small-boat fishermen may have to carry an onboard observer in the near future. The federal government is restructuring its fishery observer program to better monitor bycatch on larger vessels, but the proposed rules would also include boats under 60 feet for the first time.

Juneau Airport Getting Facelift
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Construction is picking up inside the Juneau International airport terminal, which is receiving its first facelift in more than 25 years. The 22-million dollar renovation project is set to wrap up in October. But work is underway to complete major portions of it now, before the summer tourist season kicks into high gear.

Fairbanks Contributes $10K to Yukon Quest
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Fairbanks Borough Assembly is giving 10 thousand dollars to the Yukon Quest for marketing. The 1,000-mile sled dog race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse Yukon is central to winter tourism in the region, but has suffered loss of sponsorship due to the recession. Quest Executive Director Marty Steury told the Assembly that hasn’t affected the event’s popularity with fan’s who went to the race’s website in record numbers in February.