Alaska News Nightly: September 17, 2010

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Lisa Announces Decision
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Lisa Murkowski has kept Alaskans in suspense about her possible write in candidacy plans today. She will be making her announcement in downtown Anchorage within the hour. Although the Senator and her staff have been tight lipped, others have not been and emails inviting people to come to the campaign kick-off rally have circulated since earlier today. KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer is at the Dena’ina Convention Center and joins us now.

Write-In Campaigns No Simple Thing
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Ken Rudin is NPR’s political editor. He says it’s not easy to run a successful write in campaign. He can think of only one other Senator.

McAdams Focusing on Presenting Self as Positive Candidate
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
While some voters might see the General Election race as an extension – or rerun – or the Republican Primary campaigns, there are still three major candidates vying for the job. And Democrat Scott McAdams’ campaign won’t be affected by a Murkowski write in campaign.
He has been traveling Friday following his debate with Joe Miller in Juneau yesterday.

His communication director Heather Handyside says that, when he entered the race in June, McAdams expected to run against a Republican party that was united at the state and national levels. But that changed after the Primaries.

Handyside says McAdams will focus on presenting himself as a positive candidate – and a positive member of the U.S. Senate.

Handyside says there are any number of ways to look at how the votes will be decided, but Democrats believe the “quibbling” among Republicans will be a turn-off for voters and they will take a fresh look at McAdams.

Fish and Game Commissioner to Retire in December
Jacob Reznik, KMXT – Kodiak
Denby Lloyd, the commissioner of the state department of Fish and Game has said he’ll retire in December. As Jacob Resneck of KMXT in Kodiak reports, Lloyd’s departure will come just before he must appear in court.

Senate Passes Small Business Bill
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The U.S. Senate has passed a bill Democrats say will benefit small businesses. It cleared the Senate Thursday on a vote of 61 to 38, with Democrats and two retiring Republicans supporting it: George Voinovich of Ohio, and George LeMieux of Florida. Senator Lisa Murkowski joined with the rest of her Republican colleagues and voted “no.”

The House must still pass the bill before it becomes law, but it’s expected to do so easily next week. The aid package includes $12 billion in tax relief for small businesses, and $30 billion in loans that would go to community banks to give new loans to small businesses.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich supports it, and says that loan money will help more Alaskan businesses get off the ground.

Begich dismisses Republican criticism that the bill is a bailout fund. He says it will help local community banks at the same time it helps small businesses. And he notes that the $30 billion is in loans that will have to be paid back. Begich says the $12 billion in tax relief will create more certainty for small businesses.

He also says a number of business groups that typically support Republicans are backing the bill.

Next on the Senate’s agenda is deciding whether to extend the decade-old tax cuts from the George W Bush era that are slated to expire at the end of the year. However it’s not certain Congress will be able to reach enough of an agreement to vote on them before the November election.

Small Business Bill Expected to be Welcomed by Private Sector
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Passage of the small business bill will likely be welcomed by the private sector. The last debt crisis made lenders very wary, and in turn made credit unattainable for many businesses that want to expand.

Anchorage Chamber of Commerce President Sammy Glascott says 85 percent of their members are small businesses and many of them are hampered by the credit crunch. Glascott says the Chamber has not yet taken an official position on the small business bill, however.

New-Age Gold Rush Draws Scammers
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
There’s a new gold rush underway and it’s nationwide. And according to the Better Business Bureau, just like the gold rushes in the past it’s attracted more than a few dishonest characters.

Legislature Takes Look at Post-Secondary Scholarships
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The legislative task force charged with coming up with a way to pay for postsecondary scholarships for some of the state’s smartest students is finding they need some explanation of what the Parnell administration’s bill requires –before they come up with enough money to pay for it.

As an example of the confusion left after the legislature approved the program this Spring, Homer Republican Paul Seaton asked at a meeting this morning about the amount of time that successful students will have to use their grants. He says the scholarship is valid for only eight semesters, but the University in Anchorage shows that only 16 percent of students – and only 25 percent of the students in Fairbanks – graduate over that four year period.

Diane Barrans, the executive director of the state’s Post secondary Education Commission, said that’s come up before and needs to be addressed. Only part of the issue can be dealt with by regulation, and students will be informed that the value of their scholarship will decrease if they take less than a full load of courses.

The task force will next meet on October 8 in Fairbanks with a report due to the full Legislature and the governor by December 1.

AARP President Trying to Demystify Federal Health Care and Social Security
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
More baby-boomers live in Alaska than any other state – and AARP is the largest single-member organization in Alaska, with more than 91,000 members.

Those baby boomers begin to turn 65 next year. AARP national president Lee Hammond calls January 1, 2011 “the symbolic beginning of the aging of America.”

Hammond has been in Alaska this week to demystify federal health care and social security – perhaps the most important laws for those facing old age.

In Juneau on Tuesday, nearly 100 people turned out at 7 a.m. to hear him. He also spoke in Anchorage and Ketchikan.