Alaska News Nightly: November 19, 2010

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Kwethluk Man Awarded $23 Million by Bethel Jury
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
A Bethel jury awarded a Kwethluk man and his family more than $23 million after he was severely injured by a village police officer.

State Says Fuel Watch Program is Working Well
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
The state of Alaska says Fuel Watch, a program designed to keep the heat and lights on in rural Alaska, is working well. It came about after several fuel-related crises in rural Alaska. In October 2008, the Alaska Federation of Natives called upon the federal and state governments to declare an energy emergency in rural Alaska, where some residents were paying twice as much for heating fuel and gasoline as urban Alaskans.

Judge Orders Senate Race Certification Halted if Miller Files Injunction by Monday
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
A federal judge on Friday afternoon ordered the certification of Alaska’s Senate race halted if Republican Joe Miller files a lawsuit in state court by Monday. U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline says Miller’s complaint about the interpretation of election law – and how it pertains to write-in ballots – is a state matter.

Beistline says that if Miller files a lawsuit in state court on or before Monday, the results of the race should not be certified until the legal issues raised have been fully resolved.

Miller had earlier filed for suit in federal court, alleging the state divisions of elections had not correctly interpreted state election law by accepting write in ballots that had misspelled candidates names on them

Lt. Governor Craig Campbell says voter intent drives ballot acceptance.

Judge Beistline required both state defendants and plaintiffs to address jurisdictional issues of where the case should be heard.

The state has filed to dismiss the case.

Miller also has complained that the division of elections began its hand count of write-in ballots earlier than anticipated, which forced his campaign to fly volunteer ballot count watchers to Juneau sooner than he would have liked.

The division of elections wants to certify the Senate election by Nov. 29.

Young Calls New 8(a) Legislation an Attack on Alaska
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
A member of the U.S. House has introduced a bill to alter the way Alaska Native Corporations do business.  It’s a companion bill to a Senate version introduced earlier this week by Claire McCaskill of Missouri.  Congressman Bennie Thompson from Mississippi is the main House sponsor.  The bill aims to strip away the advantages the Native Corporations receive from the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program in getting federal contracts.

Alaska Representative Don Young is bristling at the legislation, and calls it an attack on Alaska.

The bill won’t likely get a hearing during the Lame Duck session, which will go into December.  Congress is out for the Thanksgiving Recess next week, after a busy first week back, post-midterm Elections.

Newly elected House members visited DC this week for orientation and to pick their offices through a lottery process.  With 93 new members, it’s the largest freshman class in six decades.  Only nine are Democrats, and the rest are Republicans – so many new faces that Republicans will have a strong majority in the House.  Much has been made about the new wave of conservative representatives, some of whom have Tea Party support and have pledged to slash spending.  But Congressman Young says he’s seen the cycle before of confident newcomers, who believe they can change Washington.

Young is heading toward his 20th term in the House, and is second in seniority among Republicans.  He says the election on Thursday of Ohio Representative John Boehner as the new Speaker and the picks for the Republican leadership team were no surprise.

Young is often at odds with Speaker Pelosi, but he’s also butted heads with top Republican Boehner about earmarks, of which Boehner instituted a Party ban, and over Young’s potential leadership roles. It was Boehner who pressured Young to step down from his ranking spot on the Natural Resources committee two years ago because of federal investigations into his behavior.  The Justice Department says Young is not longer under scrutiny, and he hopes to get a subcommittee chairmanship in the new Congress. Even though Young says he’s pleased about the incoming Republican majority, he’s disappointed it’s coming at the cost of losing some of the centrist and conservative Democrats.

The divisions between Democrats and Republicans was apparent this week as Republicans tried to de-fund National Public Radio, and blocked an extension of long term unemployment benefits. Congressman Young voted with most other House Republicans Thursday against the unemployment benefits extension.  Those against say it should be off-set by cuts elsewhere.  The benefits are set to expire at the end of this month, and Democrats who support them say out-of-work Americans need the help.

The final vote was 258 to 154, not the two-thirds majority needed for passage.  All but 11 Democrats voted for it, and 21 Republicans crossed over to support it.

New Acting Commissioner of Fish and Game Enthusiastic About Opportunity
Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg
Former Petersburg resident Cora Campbell is enthused about her appointment as acting commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. Governor Parnell announced cabinet selections yesterday.

Campbell worked as a fisheries policy advisory and special assistant first with Governor Palin and then with Parnell. Campbell has also served on the board of directors for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and earlier on in her career was executive director of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association. She grew up in Petersburg, commercial fishing with her family. Campbell has a bachelor’s degree in education from Pacific Lutheran University. Campbell says she’s excited about the opportunity.

Campbell takes over as acting commissioner on Dec. 1 with the retirement of Denby Lloyd. The governor will eventually name a permanent replacement for Lloyd, after the Board of Fish and Board of Game solicit applications and come up with a list of nominees for the position. Campbell said state officials have been discussing the position since Lloyd announced his retirement earlier this fall.

Campbell says she will apply for the permanent commissioner’s job though the joint board selection process.

Attorney General Sullivan Appointed as Department of Natural Resources Commissioner
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Another Parnell appointee who is eager to get started is incoming Department of Natural Resources commissioner, Dan Sullivan. Currently the Attorney General for the state, Sullivan says Alaska has world class reserves of oil, gas minerals and renewables.  He says as attorney general, his number one focus was focusing on reducing sexual assault and domestic violence.

Sullivan says he believes he has a lot of experience in resource development beyond his tenure as Attorney General, going back to his days as a U.S official on global energy issues during the Bush administration.

Sullivan says he’ll listen to environmental and conservation groups also, saying they’re an important part of responsible resource development. Sullivan says stakeholder buy in on projects is critical. He says the example of development of NPRA permits is a good example of industry, Native corporations, tribes and local communities working out an agreeable plan that was ultimately held up by the Corp of Engineers.

Sullivan’s appointment is effective on Dec. 1. Governor Parnell says the search a search for a new Attorney General is underway.

Familiar Alaska Author Writing Column for ‘Woman’s Day’ Magazine
Tara Bicknell, KHNS – Haines
Alaska author Heather Lende’s name has been a familiar one in the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch, and is now on a new column appearing in the monthly magazine Women’s Day.

Alaskan Artists Heading to the Smithsonian
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
It used to be that museums had a reputation of taking away from Alaska Native communities their artwork, cultural artifacts, and even burial remains.

But the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian strives to work with Alaska Natives and Native Americans to keep culture alive.  One of its programs has sent two Alaskan artists to Washington DC for two weeks of hands-on time with the Museum’s collection.