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Alaska Politics

What’s on Gov. Walker’s Federal Wish-List?

Like governors before him, Bill Walker says the item at the top of his federal wish-list is opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. Alaska’s congressional delegation has been trying for decades, but Walker believes opening ANWR is politically possible.

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December 17, 2014
The Missile Defense Agency will be placing 14 more interceptors like this at the Fort Greely missile base by 2017. The will bring the total number of interceptors at the base to 40. Photo from the Missile Defense Agency.

Federal Spending Bill Appropriates $100 Million for Missile Defense in Alaska

The federal omnibus spending bill that awaits President Obama’s signature contains $100 million for missile defense in Alaska. It’s the only major funding for military construction work in Alaska this fiscal year.

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December 17, 2014

Governor Cuts Funding for Mining Road Project That is Subject of 2-Day Meeting in Fairbanks

Tribal leaders and stakeholders representing communities that could be impacted by a proposed 220-mile industrial road gathered in Fairbanks to discuss cultural, environmental and social impacts of the road’s potential construction. The meeting is happening at time when the state is facing difficult budget decisions that could hamper the project.

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December 17, 2014

Proposed Anchorage Ban on Commercial Pot Fails in Assembly

Nearly a hundred people came to the meeting, many of them to share their feelings on the marijuana ordinance. The majority of those who spoke during public testimony opposed the ban.

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December 17, 2014
President Obama Bans Drilling Lease Sales in Bristol Bay

President Obama Bans Drilling Lease Sales in Bristol Bay

President Obama today extended an executive action that puts Bristol Bay off-limits to oil and gas development.

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December 16, 2014

State Hires Project Lead for Medicaid Expansion

The Department of Health and Social Services has created a new position to help the state work toward the goal of expanding Medicaid. The job is “Medicaid expansion project director” and it’s being filled by Chris Ashenbrenner, who spent two decades working for the department and came out of retirement to take on this challenge.

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December 16, 2014

Walker Submits Skeletal Capital Budget

With oil prices now crashing, Gov. Bill Walker has halved Parnell’s proposal to $106 million in unrestricted general fund spending — the money that legislators can appropriate with no strings attached.

December 15, 2014

Sullivan Delighted with U.S. Senate Committee Assignments

Senator-Elect Dan Sullivan will come in with the lowest seniority of the 100 senators, primarily because he’s never held elected office before. But it doesn’t seem to have hurt him on the committee score. He’ll serve on Armed Services, Veterans Affairs, Commerce, and Environment & Public Works,

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December 15, 2014

EPA To Use North Pole Air Data

The Fairbanks area continues to struggle with fine particulate pollution from wood smoke and other sources. Wintertime air inversions trap emissions at ground level, dropping air quality below federal Clean Air Act standards. Much of the North Star Borough is classified a federal non-attainment area by the Environmental Protection Agency, based on air quality monitoring in Fairbanks, but the EPA plans to begin using monitoring data from North Pole, where pollution is typically much worse.

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December 15, 2014

Congress Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill

It’s been a big week for Alaska in Congress. Lawmakers removed the Alaska exemption in the Violence Against Women Act, a significant gain for advocates of tribal authority.

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December 12, 2014
Sealaska Lands Bill Passes Congress

Sealaska Lands Bill Passes Congress

A bill transferring about 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest to Sealaska has passed Congress.

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December 12, 2014

University of Alaska Regents Approve Tobacco Ban

The University of Alaska Board of Regents has approved a policy banning smoking and other tobacco use on its campuses statewide.

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December 12, 2014

Butler to Return as Alaska’s Top Doctor

Jay Butler is returning to his job as the state’s top doctor. Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson says in a release that Butler will be both the state’s chief medical officer and director of the Division of Health.

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December 12, 2014
ASD Charter Schools Need Facilities; School Board Considering Proposal

ASD Charter Schools Need Facilities; School Board Considering Proposal

Charter schools in Anchorage are struggling with a facilities problem. The schools are part of the Anchorage School District, but they have to find and pay for their own buildings. And it’s really hard to find empty schools or pay to build new ones. Now the Anchorage School Board is discussing a potential solution.

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December 11, 2014

Outgoing Senator Mark Begich Bids Farewell On Senate Floor

Mark Begich said goodbye on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday. His six years in office end with this Congress.

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December 11, 2014

With Lower Oil Prices, State Expecting Major Deficits

When lawmakers passed their budget this spring, they planned for a gap of $1.4 billion. The deficit for that same budget has now ballooned to $3.5 billion because of low oil prices.

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December 10, 2014

Congress Gives Fishermen 3-Year Reprieve from EPA Regs

The U.S. Senate and House on Wednesday passed a Coast Guard bill that includes a three-year moratorium on vessel discharge regulations for boats 79 feet and smaller. Both Alaska Senators spoke in favor of it. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, argued from the Senate floor for a permanent fix but she says other lawmakers insisted on a temporary moratorium.

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December 10, 2014

New Report Questions Susitna-Watana Economics; AEA Responds

A new fiscal analysis of the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project questions the Alaska Energy Authority’s estimates regarding how much the 735-foot tall dam would cost the State of Alaska, if built.

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December 10, 2014

Walker To Begin Reviewing Candidates For National Guard Post

Walker says he will be reviewing candidates for the adjutant general position next week and that a decision should be made shortly after.

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December 10, 2014

How Murkowski Played Dealmaker to Get Controversial Lands Package

The Senate is expected to pass a major public lands package this week as a rider to the annual defense bill. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of the key negotiators on this controversial compromise, which has split advocacy groups on the right and left. Murkowski is planning more of the same when she becomes a committee chairman in the new year. What did it take to free these bills from the Congressional quagmire?

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December 9, 2014