Alaska News Nightly: April 1, 2010

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It’s Not Too Late to Turn in Census Form
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Thursday is the official U.S. Census date but it’s not the last chance to fill out a form.  Fairbanks Complete Count Committee chair Kathryn Dodge says there’s a window to be included in the decadal population count. People who live remotely have been visited and counted by census workers, and Dodge says those on the road system have or will receive a census form either in their home mail box or hung on their door.  Forms are also available at local post offices.  Dodge says one way or the other it’s important to fill out a form and get it in.

Legislature on Board with Creating More VPSOs
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Bolstering the Village Public Safety Officer Program has been one of the cornerstones of Gov. Sean Parnell’s effort to make communities safer. Last year the State funded 15 new positions statewide. Now Parnell is asking for another 15, and the Alaska Legislature is on board again.

Voters Could Learn Names of Those Footing Political Ads
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Voters will know who is paying for political advertising during this year’s elections – if a bill the Senate passed on Thursday becomes law.  The measure is the state’s response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last January that allows corporations and unions to use their own money to pay for political ads – as long as they are not done within the formal campaign structure of candidates.  Judiciary chairman Hollis French (D-Anch) said the Supreme Court made a fundamental change in the way states conduct elections.  The bill requires that those paying for advertising relating to candidates or issues identify themselves to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, and identify themselves in the advertisement itself. The bill passed with no opposition, but North Pole Republican John Coghill had some reservations about the effect of the measure – particularly broadcast advertising where the sponsors must identify themselves, in person, on the air. The bill next goes to the House where it will be heard by the Judiciary Committee.

Senate OKs Separating Gas Taxes from Oil Taxes
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Senate on Thursday approved a bill separating gas taxes from oil taxes.  The issue arose when lawmakers discovered that under the current, unified tax structure, the state risked actually losing as much as two Billion dollars a year when oil prices are high – as they are now – and gas prices are low – as they also are now.   Petroleum economists predict that those conditions are likely to continue for as long as twenty years.  Opponents to the measure, including the Parnell administration, say that if those market prices reverse, the state would take in much more revenue if the tax is not changed.

Marine Hiway System Looking for New Laundry
Rosemary Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
The Alaska Marine Highway System is looking for a new laundry. Since 1985, inmates at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau have done all the laundry for 11 state ferries.  But the state Department of Corrections proposes to close the facility in September.  The Lemon Creek laundry is the last of three Prisoner Employment Programs being shut down by Corrections because they’re not making a profit.   A garment factory at Hiland Mountain women’s prison and a furniture factory at Spring Creek Correctional Center close on Wednesday.

EPA Approves Air Permits for Shell to Drill in Chukchi
Anne Hillman, KUCB – Unalaska
The Environmental Protection Agency has granted Shell Oil the air permit it needs to start drilling in the Chukchi Sea. The permit covers emissions from the drilling rig Frontier Discoverer and all of its support vessels. Janis Hastings is the deputy director of the EPA’s office of Air, Waste, and Toxics. She says the permit put strict limits on Shell’s operations.

Anchorage Goes to Polls on Tuesday
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
On Tuesday Anchorage will hold its annual municipal election.   Although the candidate campaign advertisements have not been as heavy as in recent years, this spring’s voting will decide the political dominance of the Anchorage Assembly.

Tlingit Artifacts Back in SE Alaska After 150 Years on East Coast
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Thirty-three sacred Tlingit artifacts are back in Southeast Alaska after spending nearly 150 years at a museum in Massachusetts. The objects include masks, rattles, tools, pipes and a wooden warrior’s helmet collected during the 1860s by Edward Fast, a U-S Army lieutenant stationed in Sitka. Fast later sold the artifacts to the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl says most were used by shaman during healing ceremonies.

Fewer People Rode Ferries Last Year
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Fewer people rode state ferries last year. The drop in foot and vehicle traffic followed three years of increases. But officials say the numbers are coming back up.

Canadian Geese Coming Back to AK
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A sure sign of spring, Canada geese are migrating north to breeding grounds in Alaska. The first geese showed up in Delta Junction Tuesday, and the Fairbanks Dailey News Miner is reporting two citizen sightings at Creamers Field Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks Monday. Department of Fish and Game Creamers Refuge biologist Lori Boeck says the geese usually take a few days to get to Fairbanks after showing up in Delta.