Liz Ruskin, APRN
lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | About Liz
U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller kicked off his campaign last night in Wasilla before a few hundred cheering supporters. Amid prayer and patriotic songs, Miller and those introducing him talked about God, guns and government mistrust. Miller drew cheers as he hit on popular Tea Party themes, such as abolishing the IRS and ending state surveillance.
In Juneau, the latest version of the education funding bill emerged today, and it isn’t what school advocates were hoping for. Senate Finance co-chairman Kevin Meyer says it’s a comprehensive bill that would add $100 million to education, and he says the Republican majority is committed to keeping that money in the budget for each of the next three years.
The state House voted Thursday to sunset the Alaska Film Tax Credit in 2016. The provision was part of a bill requiring state agencies to report to the Legislature on so-called “lost revenue.” That’s the millions of dollars in revenues the state doesn’t collect each year due to various fee exemptions and tax credits. The bill adds sunset dates to some of them, meaning those programs would expire if lawmakers don’t intervene before then.
Gov. Sean Parnell’s $150 million-dollar bill to subsidize Alaska’s oil refineries grew to $200 million today, when House Speaker Mike Chenault expanded it to include the Agrium fertilizer plant in Nikiski.
The Parnell Administration warns Petro Star’s refinery in North Pole might fold without state assistance. A bill pending in the state House would prop up Alaska’s three remaining oil refineries with $150 million in state funds. But even some legislators who are helping advance the bill say they’re uncomfortable with it.
Despite occasional fears in the West of a Russian land grab in the Arctic, Russia has behaved as a good neighbor in its dealings with other countries in the Arctic Council. But Putin’s moves in Ukraine has Arctic experts wondering what this means for international relations in the Arctic and whether the era of cooperation with Russia is over.
The mining conglomerate Rio Tinto announced this morning it is divesting its stake in Northern Dynasty, the owner of the proposed Pebble Mine. Rio said in December it might sell, but in a surprise move, the company says it is donating its 19 percent share to two charities, the Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell already rejected a plan to build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to link King Cove to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay. These days, all three members of Alaska’s Congressional delegation are trying to get her to change her mind, and today was Congressman Don Young’s turn to press the case.
The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee today looked at a raft of bills aimed at improving the safety of Native American communities, including Alaska Native villages. A bill that would strengthen Alaska tribal courts and tribal law enforcement drew no opposition at the hearing, but the bill is likely to become more controversial.
The head of the federal National Guard Bureau says the investigation now underway into allegations of sexual assault and harassment within the Alaska National Guard should not be hidden away.
The Katie John lawsuit over subsistence fishing rights is finally over. The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will not review a lower court’s decision to leave standing federal rules that provide a rural subsistence priority on 60% of Alaska’s inland waters.
The head of British Columbia’s government has pledged to spur mining development in the western Canadian province, and that has fishermen in Southeast Alaska nervous. A group from Southeast flew to Washington D.C. this week to see how it can raise its voice in Canada.
In Congress today, a House subcommittee marked the 5oth anniversary of the Great Alaska Earthquake with a hearing focused on what scientists have learned from that event that can prepare the nation for the next big temblor or tsunami. Seismologists and several lawmakers said Congress needs to pony up for an earthquake early warning system.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she’s normally not one for drama, but she has stepped up the rhetoric on one issue: The King Cove road. Murkowski says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is the only person standing between the people of King Cove and their access to an all-weather airport for medical evacuations Jewell went before a Senate panel to defend the president’s budget today and Murkowski seized the opportunity.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal today that critics say would expand the reach of the Clean Water Act to cover most creeks and wetlands across the country. The EPA says the rule would not broaden its jurisdiction. It says the rule just clarifies that most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected, as are wetlands near streams.
Former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice stars in an ad for Republican challenger Dan Sullivan. The ad aims to quash the argument of a pro-Begich super PAC that Sullivan belongs more to the Beltway than to Alaska. Meanwhile, the Begich campaign is airing an ad showing footage of both the senator and of his Congressman father, campaigning across Alaska by small airplane, four decades apart.