Alaska News Nightly: February 11, 2013

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

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Bill Defines ‘Medically Necessary’ Abortions

The Associated Press

Medically necessary abortions would be defined as those needed to avoid serious risk to the life of the woman under a bill introduced in the Alaska Senate.

The measure, from Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, says the state health department may not pay for abortion services unless they are medically necessary or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest and the rape or incest was “promptly reported” to law enforcement or public health authorities.

The Alaska Supreme Court has held that the state must fund medically necessary abortions if it funds other procedures deemed medically necessary for people in need. A legislative legal opinion last year, however, said it’s not clear what makes an abortion medically necessary, and that it’s likely only further litigation will provide greater clarity.

Alaska Democrats Introduce Oil Tax Proposal

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Democratic legislators have rolled out their oil tax proposal, and the bill is more of a modification of the current tax structure than an overhaul. It would cap the windfall profits tax at 30 percent, and create credits for heavy oil research and development and the construction of new processing facilities on the North Slope.

It would also exempt 20 percent of oil from new fields from taxes for the first seven years in production.

The bill has been pitched as an alternative to Gov. Sean Parnell’s plan to lower taxes on oil companies. Parnell’s bill would get rid of a mechanism that raises taxes on oil companies as the price per barrel goes up, and it gets rid of some exploration credits in favor of ones tied to production.

The Democrats bill is now winding its way through the legislature, with a handful of hearings in both the House and Senate this week. Parnell’s office is currently reviewing the minority’s bill, and offered a brief statement, saying that the governor is pleased that Democrats “agree there is a problem with production under the current system.” About 90 percent of Alaska’s tax revenue comes from oil production.

Mayor, Assembly To Propose Ordinance Limiting Unions

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

Anchorage workers are speaking out after being told the Mayor and Assembly are proposing an ordinance to limit the power of unions. Mayor Dan Sullivan is proposing the ordinance along with Assembly Chair Ernie Hall and Vice Chair Jennifer Johnston. The Mayor says he’s just trying delivery of the highest value services at the lowest reasonable cost to the citizens of Anchorage while Union leaders say he’s taking away worker’s rights.

Expelled GOP Leader Files Appeal

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The recently ousted leader of the Alaska Republican Party is fighting his removal. It’s just another clash in a long battle between establishment Republicans and members of the Ron Paul and Tea Party movements.

Judge Denies Bid To Block Port MacKenzie Rail Spur

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A federal judge has denied a bid to block the Port MacKenzie railroad spur project.  Monday U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline handed down his decision, saying that extensive environmental studies were conducted over a period of years regarding the project, and that the benefits of the project are great, while further delay in construction would not be in the public interest.

A number of environmental groups, headed by Cook Inletkeeper, had asked for a preliminary injunction halting initial construction of the line  linking Port MacKenzie and Houston.   Oral arguments in the case were heard on February 7.  In an earlier court decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the construction of the rail spur.

Researchers Successfully Launch Rocket From Poker Flat

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A research rocket was successfully launched from Poker Flat north of Fairbanks last week.  The 67 foot high 11 thousand pound rocket was launched into the upper atmosphere February 6th.

Alaska Cultural Connections: Going Outside

Anne Hillman, APRN Contributor

For the next several weeks, APRN will be airing a series that looks at how Alaskans describe what makes their way of life unique. Whether you live in a village or a city, everyone has a culture and we’re going to bring you stories of how both urban and rural Alaskans define and live theirs. The series is funded by a grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum Rose Urban Rural Exchange.

First up, we start with a common intergenerational complaint. – kids don’t go outside any more. They’re too interested in video games, or TV or the Internet. APRN’s Anne Hillman spoke with people in rural and urban Alaska who are trying to limit the impact of technology on young people.

Allen Moore Claims Yukon Quest Crown

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

A light snow fell on a small crowd gathered on the Chena River in Fairbanks as Allen Moore’s eleven-dog team pulled the musher across the Yukon Quest finish line early this morning. The win is fitting after a narrow miss last year.

Despite Setbacks, Dupre Believes Solo Winter Summit Of Denali Can Be Done

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Lonnie Dupre says cold weather is his forte. And it’s a good thing too. The mountaineer has spent the last three winters trying to become the first person to summit Denali solo in December and January. He’s failed all three times and encountered harsh storms, temperatures well below zero and death defying ice along the way. But the Minnesota explorer – who now spends part of the year in Homer, says he’s still optimistic the climb can be done.

He sat down with APRN’s Annie Feidt to talk about this year’s expedition. He says at 17,000 feet he could feel fluid building up in his lungs and made the choice to turn around. But he says it wasn’t a difficult decision.