Liz Ruskin, APRN - Washington DC
Liz Ruskin is the Washington DC correspondent for the Alaska Public Radio Network.
Brace yourselves for higher airline ticket fees, maybe. In Congress, budget negotiators are trying to craft a deal that would keep the government running and avoid automatic spending cuts without raising taxes. But lawmakers say the deal may include higher user fees, among them, a doubling of the security fee air passengers pay – from $2.50 per flight segment to $5.
Two bills aimed at helping coastal communities deal with marine debris advanced in Congress on Wednesday. Alaska Congressman Don Young, a co-sponsor, says they would make it easier for local, state and tribal governments to get money to remove rubbish that floats to their shores.
A survey of oil company managers and executives has given Alaska poor marks for its business climate. The annual report by the Fraser Institute, a conservative Canadian think tank, stacks Alaska up against other states and countries in an effort to develop a “policy perception index.” The respondents weren’t kind to the 49th state.
Congress is so stuck in partisan mire it hardly passes any bills these days. So it would seem unlikely it could pass anything as controversial as opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Still, two campaigns, Arctic Power and Alaska Wilderness League, remain on the job in Washington, D.C. One has been fighting for 20 years to allow oil development on the coastal plain of the refuge, the other working just as long to ensure that day never comes.
The U.S. Senate this week has been debating how the military should handle sexual assault reports from service members. Both Alaska senators have signed on to an amendment that would let military prosecutors, rather than a suspect’s commander, determine which cases to pursue. Senator Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday spoke on the Senate floor about some of the incidents that motivate her.
Navajo code talkers were recognized more than a decade ago for their service in World War II. They used their Native language as a code that the enemy was never able to crack, but until recently, no one knew that Tlingits from Southeast Alaska also served as code talkers.
The Department of Interior announced Tuesday it paid Alaska $19 million over the previous year for oil and gas development on federal land in the state.
Tribal leaders from Alaska and the rest of the country had a chance this week talk with the highest powers in the federal government. Nearly all of President Obama’s cabinet secretaries participated in the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, as did Obama himself.
It was Tlingit weekend at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. recently. Storytellers, artists and dancers from Alaska and Canada performed in the museum’s massive atrium. The museum, a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol, is a branch of the Smithsonian, but it’s unlike the others.
The country could face a second round of automatic budget cuts if Congress can’t agree on a spending plan by year’s end.
Gay rights advocates are celebrating a win today in the nation’s capital. The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to ban workplace discrimination against gay and transgender people. Both Alaska senators voted for it. But, the bill is unlikely to become law.
A group of U.S. senators, including Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, is pressing to strip military commanders of the authority to decide how to handle accusations of rape within their units.
The Obama Administration claims it has fixed some of the problems with the new online federal health insurance marketplace, but so far Alaskans remain mostly shut out. Senator Lisa Murkowski had a chance to grill the top official in charge of the website at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, and she used it to air some of her frustrations.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski met this week with federal officials investigating FEMA’s response to this year’s flooding in Galena. The flood left more than half of Galena’s homes uninhabitable. Murkowski says the agency seemed unprepared for a community off the road system and failed to recognize the shortness of the Alaska building season.
The Federal Election Commission ruled today that U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller can use campaign funds to appeal an $84,000 judgment arising from a campaign related lawsuit. The FEC, though, stopped short of saying a candidate can use campaign money to pay a penalty arising from his own bad conduct in a court case. That distinction probably won’t matter to Miller.
U.S. Senator Mark Begich says he still supports the Affordable Care Act but he recently joined nine other Senate Democrats in asking the Obama administration to extend the sign-up period.
An estimated 1,500 World War II veterans live in Alaska. The generation that fought the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese Army are now in their 80s and 90s. A group dedicated to honoring these Alaskans, The Last Frontier Honor Flight- flew two dozen veterans to Washington, D.C. last week to visit the World War II Memorial.
With the bitter Congressional standoff over for now, lawmakers could turn to a practice rarely seen in Washington these days. They might pass a few bills. Each member of Alaska’s congressional delegation has sponsored dozens of bills this year. But, other than the budget, don’t bet on anything controversial becoming law.