Alaska News Nightly: March 26, 2012

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Bill Would Expand Right To Self Defense

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A State House bill that would expand the right to self defense in Alaska has been getting increased attention, in part because of the Trayvon Martin case.

Florida, where Martin was shot last month, passed a similar law in 2005. HB80 would change the definition of when Alaskans can use deadly force.

Currently Alaska law says you can defend yourself if you’re threatened or attacked in your home, business, at risk of being car jacked or defending a child or family member regardless of where you are, or if you’re a police officer. HB80 would drop the current requirement that in all circumstances other than the home, business or car, you have a duty to retreat if you can do so with “complete safety.”  Anchorage prosecutor James Fayette, who testified against the proposal, says an unintended consequence could be an easier path for criminals.

Fayette works for the Anchorage District Attorney’s office, but stresses he’s speaking out as a citizen and long time prosecutor, not as a representative of the DA’s office.

Similar laws expanding the right to self defense such as Florida, where it’s referred to as the Stand your Ground statute, have been sponsored by the National Rifle Association. Republican Representative Mark Nueman is from the Mat Su Valley’s Big Lake area. Nueman says more than 20 states now have removed the duty to retreat. Nueman says he is an NRA member but that’s not necessarily why he sponsored the legislation.

But James Fayette says the law does allow Alaskans to protect themselves or their family members now in the settings Nueman describes. The standard is you must walk away if you can do so with complete safety. He says the duty to retreat is based on the premise that there will be times when it’s better for people to walk away rather than take a life.

Representative Nueman says there were no changes made to the justification part of the current law. He says if you’re a gang member or intoxicated, you can’t claim self defense. But Nueman and Fayette both say almost all people who use deadly force claim self defense in court. Nueman says that’s just the way it is.

The bill has already passed the house. Senator Hollis French, a Democrat from Anchorage, said although he had concerns about the bill he agreed to pass it out of the judiciary committee and send it to Senate Finance. A similar bill in Minnesota was vetoed recently. In the Florida case, the man who claimed self defense and shot Trayvon Martin has not been charged with any crime.

Senate Impatient Waiting For Tax Data

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The Senators working on a final version of a bill amending the tax on oil and gas today (Monday) pressed the Parnell administration for reliable data justifying their proposed changes. Lawmakers don’t have audited information to support the Parnell administration’s claims about the law.

No Major Cuts Expected In Alaska Military Forces

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Army’s top general said last week that its leaders don’t plan on making any major cuts in its forces in Alaska.  Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno’s responses to inquiries by Senator Lisa Murkowski come amidst federal budget cutting efforts, and uncertainty about Alaska’s military future persists.

Alaska Native Leaders Address FASD

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

Alaska Native leaders from across Alaska were in Anchorage last week for a conference to address Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. They heard from birth mothers, young adults affected with FASD, and a number of people working to end the nation’s leading preventable birth defect.

Filmmaker Argues For Universal Health Insurance

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

With the U.S. Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in the health care reform case this week, the debate over access to affordable insurance is in the news.

A new PBS documentary airing on Alaska One television Tuesday examines low cost, quality health care in the United States. U.S. Health Care: The Good News finds that communities with the most affordable care have a system in place to cover the most people.

It’s by journalist T.R. Reid, who was in Alaska last week.

Local Schools To State: It’s About The Money

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The State House today (Monday) opened its weeklong focus on education with an overview of what Alaska has done for local schools.

‘Parks For All’ Tied To Prop 3

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

Among the propositions on the Anchorage municipal election ballot April 3rd, is one that means a lot to one little girl. Her name is Anna and she likes to go to the park. KSKA’s Daysha Eaton explains how Proposition 3 could give her a place to play.

Fifty Complete White Mountain 100

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Fifty competitors have completed the third annual White Mountains 100 north of Fairbanks. They set out early Sunday morning for the ultra-distance, human powered race.  A handful of racers are still out on the trail.