Alaska News Nightly: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Alaska Air National Guard members deploying to Middle East

Liz Ruskin, APRN and Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

More than 100 members of the Alaska Air National Guard are deploying to the Middle East this week. The guard says most of them are part of an airlift squadron, flying C-130s. Others come from Guard maintenance units.

Democrats want to embrace candidates who won’t wear label

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington D.C.

The Alaska Democratic Party is suing to open its ballot to non-partisan candidates. Democrats say they want to be more inclusive. Some Republicans allege the Democrats are trying to pull a fast one.

Cannabis deadline means beginning of applications, but not sales

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Wednesday is an important date in the state’s long process of licensing commercial cannabis in Alaska: The deadline for the state to have a permit application up and running.

Legislature to hear bill for Alaskan income tax

Associated Press

A legislative committee will hear a bill that would levy a personal income tax on Alaskans later than anticipated. The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee was to have heard the bill Tuesday afternoon, but testimony on another bill before the committee ran long.

$7 million of next years budget to be cut from liquid natural gas

Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – Juneau

State officials have put a number on how much they will trim from next year’s budget for marketing liquefied natural gas from the proposed pipeline: $7 million. That’s the cut Governor Bill Walker’s administration will make to its budget request. It reduces the number of companies marketing gas to customers in Asia from three to one.

UA president touts plan to save state money

Hannah Colton, KDLG – Dillingham

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen is touting a restructuring plan called “Strategic Pathways” as a way to save the state money. The plan, presented to the Board of Regents last week, would reorganize the system into three “lead” universities, but it lacks specifics about how much money it would save, or which programs might be on the chopping block.

2016 Iron Dog snowmachine racers start to arrive in Nome

Emily Russell, KNOM – Nome

Competitive Iron Dog teams started to arrive in Nome Tuesday.  Team Number #8, Tyler Ecklestad of Palmer and Tyson Johnson of Eagle River, arrived at the 1000 mile halfway point along the Iron Dog trail just after 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. They won ten thousand dollars for their effort, but they weren’t the first team to arrive in Nome.

Nanwalek school bursting at the seams

Daysha Eaton, KBBI – Homer

Nanwalek School is nearing 150 percent capacity, but the Kenai Peninsula Borough School district has no plan to expand the facility. It’s so crowded that next year, the principal plans to move one class into a re-purposed garage. Nanwalek is an Alutiiq/Sugpiaq community near the Southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Lack of snow, winds fuel Alaska’s first wildfire of 2016

Associated Press

A lack of snow in interior Alaska helped the state’s first wildfire of 2016 to burn on open tundra. The Alaska Division of Forestry says in a statement that the fire started and was extinguished Monday on military land about 10 miles south of Delta Junction.

IFA releases report on effects of Southeast Alaska ferries

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

An independent southern Southeast Alaska ferry system contributes about $50 million a year to the region’s economy. The Inter-Island Ferry Authority just released a report showing its impacts on tourism, seafood, health-care and other industries. The Inter-Island Ferry Authority, or IFA, has been sailing for about 15 years It runs between Hollis, on Prince of Wales Island, and Ketchikan. And it’s separate from the much larger Alaska Marine Highway System.