Alaska News Nightly: February 13, 2009

The US  House has passed the stimulus package and the Senate seems ready to do the same.  Also, the judge in the Ted Stevens trial holds some Justice Department lawyers in contemt of court.  And Yukon Quest mushers prepare to burst out to the starting shoot.   Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via e-mail, podcast and RSS.

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Stimulus package appears on its way to passage

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
The US House passed the massive Economic Stimulus package this morning. The Senate is expected to follow tonight. Just how much money will come to Alaska isn’t yet known, but the most recent estimates say it could mean at least 8,000 Alaskan jobs over two years.

Judge in Stevens trial holds Justice Department lawyers in contempt
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
A federal judge has found a team of Justice Department lawyers in contempt for failing to turn over documents to attorneys for former Senator Ted Stevens.  The judge is upset over the way the Justice Department has handled itself in the aftermath of the Stevens trial.

Yukon Quest starts tomorrow

Dan Bross, KUAC – Whitehorse
A British musher will be the first out of the start shoot when the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race gets underway tomorrow in
Whitehorse, Yukon. Rookie Mark Sleightholme drew numberone at the quest banquet last night. He’ll be followed out by 28 other mushers in the 1000 mile race to Fairbanks. Noticeably missing from the Quest field is four-time reigning champion Lance Mackey.

Bill to loosen cruise ship discharge requirements introduced in the house
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
A bill loosening wastewater discharge restrictions on cruise ships was introduced in the state House today. The measure by Valdez Republican John Harris changes five words in the initiative that voters approved in 2006 — it removes the phrase “at the point of discharge.”

Proposals for change in the state’s voter initiative process

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
A Southeast legislative leader wants Alaskans to know who’s backing ballot measures while they’re still on the street. Ketchikan resentative Kyle Johansen is pushing for financial disclosure earlier in the initiative process. The House majority leader’s bill would also include a cooling-off period for hot-button issues.

Minimum wage gets a hearing in the State Senate

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
Legislation that would increase Alaska’s minimum wage got a hearing before the State Senate’s labor and commerce committee yesterday.  The measure would require Alaskan employers pay a higher wage that’s adjusted for inflation each year. Opponents, mainly in the hospitality industry, testified it would hurt their businesses and force them to eliminate jobs

Federal Judge halts Juneau Road project
Lori Townsend, APRN and Associated Press – Anchorage
A federal judge has sided with environmentalists and stopped – at least temporarily – the Juneau road project.    US  District Judge John Sedwick today ruled that the federal government and the US Forest Service did not fully consider improved ferry service as an alternative to the 51-mile proposed road.

New Steinway Concert Grand arrives in Sitka
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
A week before the Sitka Jazz Festival opened this month, a heavy crate arrived at the new Sitka Performing Arts Center. As festival co-director Terry Lovett told audiences, his reaction at the time was: “Now what?”  Meet the man who transformed the crate of parts into a Steinway concert grand piano.