Alaska Nightly News: April 2, 2010

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Parnell Receives Threatening Letter from Fringe Group
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage and The Associated Press
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell is among the governors who have received letters demanding they leave office or be removed. Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow confirmed today that Parnell had received a letter in his Anchorage office. She said the letter arrived on Wednesday. Leighow says the letter was handled by the Governor’s protective security detail and they passed it on to the FBI. The group Guardians of the Free Republics sent letters to at least 30 governors demanding they leave office or be removed. Investigators didn’t see threats of violence in the group’s message but the FBI has warned that the group’s call could provoke violence by others.

Campbell Won’t Seek Reelection
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Lt. Governor Craig E. Campbell announced today he will not seek another term as lieutenant governor and is withdrawing from the August 24, 2010 Republican primary election. In a statement released this afternoon, Campbell said he had intended to retire from the Alaska National Guard at the end of 2010. He said he was honored to be in the role of Lieutenant Governor but he has decided to pursue other opportunities. Campbell said he has requested the State Division of Elections withdraw his name as a candidate. Campbell was confirmed as lieutenant governor on August 10, 2009.

Obama Interested in Pursuing North Slope Gas for Lower 48
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Anchorage
The new Federal coordinator for the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline on Friday told legislators that the White House wants to elevate the project for getting gas from the North Slope to North American Markets – and the Obama administration is looking for ways to be involved. Larry Persily advised legislators not to take action to stop the project yet.

Big Public Employee Unions Agree to Contracts Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
The state’s two largest public employee unions have tentative agreements for new three-year contracts. The Alaska State Employees Association — representing 85,000 general government workers — and the Alaska Public Employees Association — representing 2,000 supervisors — both reached agreements on Thursday. ASEA members have been offered a one percent pay increase in the first year of the contract, and two percent in each of the remaining years. APEA members get two percent each year. There’s only partial implementation of a geographic cost differential study, which takes into account the higher cost of living for state employees outside Anchorage. The state did agree to increase its contribution to employees’ health insurance costs.

Senate Changes Funding Formula for Rural Schools
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
The State Senate unanimously passed a new funding formula for rural school construction on Thursday. Senate Bill 237 would require future legislatures to put $40 million annually into a fund to pay for new school construction.  It’s the first major step that the Legislature has taken in 10 years since the Superior Court ruled the State’s funding formula violated the rights of Alaska Native students.

State to Receive Federal Funds to Monitor Water Quality off NW Alaska
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The state Department of Environmental Conservation will receive $2.25 million in federal revenue sharing to monitor water quality off northwest Alaska.  The Minerals Management Service grant comes from its Coastal Impact Assessment Program. The money is federal royalty payments derived from companies drilling off coastal states. The grant will be used to expand the Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program, now in Southcentral and southeast Alaska waters, to part of the Chukchi Sea. The coastline from Point Hope to Point Barrow will be studied.

Union to File Grievance over Shutting Down Jobs Programs
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
The state’s largest public employee union plans to file a grievance against the Department of Corrections for its decision to shut down three Prisoner Employment Programs before determining what the closures would cost the state. Now the products and services will have to come from the private sector.  Alaska State Employees Association Business Manager Jim Duncan says that’s “contracting out” work that can be done by state employees.

Wasilla Recognized for Outreach Programs
Ellen Lockyer,  KSKA – Anchorage
Wasilla’s Soil and Water Conservation District has been recognized for its leadership in education and outreach programs.  The National Fish Habitat Board in Washington, DC  will honor the conservation planning group with an award later this month. The Wasilla  Districts’ program engaged more than two thousand elementary  and middle school children and adults in the Matanuska Susitna Borough in fish habitat restoration and protection projects in 2009. The group worked with middle school students in 2006 to conduct stream studies on Little Susitna River, and in 2009, students worked to restore riverbanks.

Alaska’s Been Good to Bhutanese Refugees
Michelle Theriault, APRN – Anchorage
Last summer a group of Bhutanese refugees arrived in Anchorage, ready to start a new life after nearly two decades in Nepalese camps. Alaska has been good to them. But they’re missing something essential.