Alaska News Nightly: December 2, 2011

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Oil Tax Survey Results Inconclusive

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The dominant question for next year’s legislative session is whether the Senate will approve Governor Parnell’s bill to lower taxes on oil production.  The House passed the measure on a 22 to 16 vote in this year’s session.  But the Senate refused to consider it. A survey released Friday by the Associated Press shows the Senate is divided – but it’s too early to predict the outcome.   Only 11 of the state’s 20 senators responded to the survey, and only one of them, Senator Linda Menard, said she would vote to reduce the tax, None of the other 10 respondents endorsed the governor’s plan, although six of them said the petroleum tax does need some sort of change.

The Senate is doing basic research prior to the session to present facts for members to consider before voting.   For example, the Finance Committee has commissioned a study of labor practices and job functions on the North Slope to determine if they are related to oil production or maintenance. That report is due for release later this month.  The session begins in Juneau on Jan. 17.

BBAHC Weighs Employee Benefit Cuts

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The Federal Budget is still not balanced and that’s making Alaska Native Health Corporations that receive federal funding via the Indian Health Service nervous.   At least one of the organizations is weighing cuts to employee benefits as a way to reduce their budget.

Trial Leaders Meet at White House Summit

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

For the third time in as many years, tribal leaders gathered at the Interior Department in Washington on Friday for a summit with the White House.  President Obama initiated the conferences as a way to build inroads with Alaska Natives and Native Americans.

Ketchikan Man Faces APOC Campaign Fine

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A Ketchikan House candidate faces a sizable penalty for campaigning without registering.

An Alaska Public Offices Commission attorney recommends fining David Scott $2,357. That’s because he sent out emails announcing his election plans without filing the proper paperwork with the state.

Scott is a former chief of staff for the incumbent in the seat, Representative Kyle Johansen. The Republican, now chief of staff for Nome Democratic Senator Donny Olson, announced his candidacy on Alaska Day.

He sent emails to the media, plus another Ketchikan Republican, who forwarded it to party members. At the time, he said he planned to work the upcoming legislative session, which meant he would not file until after the legislature adjourns. That’s because legislative staff have to quit before running for office.

In a report to the commission, APOC attorney Martha Tansik recommends he be charged a $700 fine, plus$1,657 in staff costs. That adds up to $2,357 in civil penalties.

Calls for comment were referred to APOC Executive Director Paul Dauphinais, whosaid staff concluded Scott violated state statute.

“For Mister Scott, it appears that he had an expenditure in announcing his campaign and did so before he filed either a letter of intent of candidate registration or put his name in nomination,” Dauphinais said.

Question: “Does the commission have a rule or the state have a rule that says sending an email is an expenditure?”

Dauphinais: “Yes, the commission has set a precedent where sending an email is considered an expenditure, even if it is de minimis (a legal term for minimal).”

The full commission will decide whether to levy the entire recommended fine.

Scott also could not be reached via phone and email. But in an earlier interview with KRBD, he said he did his best to follow the rules.

“I had no intent to try to skirt any ethical barriers or campaign laws, which is why I was in contact with the ethics committee before hand, before I did the press release. So I used my own private time. I did it after 5 o’clock. That’s why I used my own private computer. And I released the press release on a state holiday,” Scott said.

His written response to APOC’s complaint notes that he sent another email, rescinding his candidacy announcement, after agency staff told him he was in violation of campaign laws.

He also said he realizes he should have contacted APOC before sending out the first announcement.

The APOC report also questions whether Scott has actually ended his campaign. It cites a KRBD report where he indicates he still intends to run for the House.

Incumbent Johansen is seeking election to a reconfigured Ketchikan-based House district. Wrangell Representative Peggy Wilson and Ketchikan Visitors Bureau Director Patty Mackey have also filed for the Republican primary.

Ketchikan City Council Member Matt Olsen will run as a Democrat.

Memorial Honor Four Fallen Ft. Wainwright Soldiers

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A memorial service at Ft. Wainwright on Thursday honored four soldiers killed last month in the war in Afghanistan.

Councilman Menard May Face Recall

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Wasilla city councilman Steve Menard may face a recall action.   A petition asking city voters to recall the two- time councilman was turned in this week to the Wasilla clerk just before  deadline on Monday.  The petition carries more than the required 201 valid signatures of city voters.

Thursday, Wasilla clerk Kristie Smithers. contacted petition co-sponsors Deanna Dedrickson and George M.Taft, Jr.  by letter indicating that 203 of the 284 signatures had been validated.  That means the petition for recall has been certified.

Smithers says it is the first time that a recall effort would be decided in a special election.

The number of signatures is based on 25 percent of the people who voted in the 2010 Wasilla city election. The local Conservative Patriots Group is behind the recall effort. Petitioners say Menard’s behavior at a Sitka hotel room while on city business in August rises to the level of official misconduct in office.  Menard has apologized and admitted to an alcohol problem.  Petitioners say Menard is not fit for office.

65 Mushers Complete Iditarod Entries So Far

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

So far, 65 mushers have completed entries for the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.  Entries must carry a Nov. 30 postmark, so some more may be coming in, according to race officials.  Next year marks the 40th running of the competition.

Reigning champion John Baker is among the six Iditarod winners running next year.  The 2012 race promises to be ultra-competitive once again, as 7 of the top 10 and 15 of the top 20 mushers of this year’s race are entered.

AK: A New Generation of Fishermen

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

The fishing industry isn’t getting any younger, and the so-called “graying of the fleet” even has some state legislators concerned. But while fishermen are getting older on average, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a younger crowd eager to enter the industry.

KUCB’s Alexandra Gutierrez met up with some of these people recently after Fish Expo in Seattle. They spent the night swapping stories at a few traditional fishermen’s bars in the city’s Ballard neighborhood

300 Villages: Cooper Landing

Today, we’re visiting Kay Thomas in Cooper Landing, a tiny hamlet on the Sterling Highway famous for Kenai River fishing and raft trips.