Alaska News Nightly: April 9, 2010

Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS.

Download Audio (MP3)

Gas Line Foes Start Work Together
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
A gas line directly from the North Slope to SouthCentral Alaska got extra force on Friday as sponsors of two competing development paths began to work together.   A bill sponsored by House Speaker Kenai Republican Mike Chenault would set up a semi-independent development team headed by the Executive Director of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation – Dan Fauske – with the mandate of having a plan completely planned and ready for a legislative go-ahead decision in the summer of 2011.  Senate Resources Co-Chair Lesil McGuire had proposed giving more responsibility to the Alaska Railroad. Chenault says they recognized that their mutual goal was to get a project built – not to debate their separate merits.

Parnell Picks Rejected
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Legislators on Friday rejected two of Governor Parnell’s appointments to governmental services while approving seventy two others – named to fill vacancies on Boards and Commissions as well as top-level cabinet jobs. Among those receiving legislative approval were Daniel Sullivan as Attorney General,  Thomas Katkus to head the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs,  and Larry Hartig – the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation – as the designee to fill the Lieutenant Governor’s office if a vacancy should occur.

The most opposition arose over the appointment of the Executive Director of the Pregnancy Resource Center in Fairbanks to fill a position on the Board of Nursing.  Statutes require that the position be filled by an individual with recent work experience as a nurse.   By a vote of 34 to 24, Nancy Bienvenue was rejected – with most of the debate centering on whether she met the statutory requirements for the job.  Opponents pointed out that, although Bienvenue was trained as a nurse, she has not worked as one since 1993.  Statutes clearly require she would have needed to work for four years prior to meeting the qualifications. Wrangell Republican Peggy Wilson – herself a nurse – agreed with the opposition. The other appointee rejected by the Joint Session was Al Barrette, the Governor’s pick for an appointment to the Board of Game.

Former Coast Guard Commander Given Maximum Punishment
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Former Coast Guard Sector Anchorage Commander Captain Herbert M. Hamilton was given the maximum allowable punishment at an Admiral’s Mast today and will retire on July 1 in the grade of lieutenant with a general discharge in lieu of trial by a general court-martial.  Hamilton was relieved of command in May 2009. An investigation conducted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service revealed that Hamilton had inappropriate relationships with several women, including officer and enlisted Coast Guard members, and civilians, over a period of more than 13 years.

Lemon Creek Correctional Laundry Center May Be Saved
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
The Lemon Creek Correctional Center laundry may be saved through the capital budget.
Since 1985, Lemon Creek inmates have done hundreds of thousands of pounds of laundry annually for the Alaska Marine Highway System. But the laundry is one of three Prisoner Employment Programs to close.

Cruise Tax Proceeds Aimed at Waterfront Projects
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The state Senate’s capital budget proposes spending more than $45 million in cruise-ship head-tax proceeds. Almost all the funded projects are at or near the waterfront. That’s a change from last year’s budget, passed before the industry sued claiming much of the money was misspent.

Kobuk 440 Mushers Resting in Ambler
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Above the Arctic circle, about nine of the 12 mushers running the Kobuk 440 sled dog race are now at the 4th check point in Ambler. Kotzebue resident Liz Moore is the official timekeeper for the Kobuk 440.  Moore says from Ambler the mushers will next head to Shungnak which she says is an especially important stop this year.

2nd Amendment Group to Rally in Fairbanks
Dan Bross, KUAC
A citizen-lead government reform movement that got its start in Fairbanks, is organizing Patriots’ Day rallies across the country.  The 2nd Amendment Task Force is planning a large gathering at the Washington Monument for April 19th, while smaller scale events are scheduled for other locations, including Anchorage and Fairbanks.  Local organizer Coleman Barney of North Pole says the Fairbanks event is to re-acquaint people with the origins of our country and freedoms.

AK AARP Director Lauds Passage of Health Care Reform
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
About 62,000 Alaskans are on Medicare. During the heat of the debate over health care reform, the AARP, a more than 37-million member elder advocacy organization, took some heat of its own when it endorsed the final legislation package. Ken Osterkamp is the Alaska director for AARP. He says the organization lost some members during the controversy, but since the passage, some have returned. He says although some of the fixes AARP would have liked to see didn’t make the final bill there’s a lot of good in it and he says it was time to put a stop to some arbitrary practices by insurance carriers.