Alaska News Nightly: July 9, 2014

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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Begich Co-Sponsors Bill Responding To Hobby Lobby Decision

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Senator Mark Begich today joined other Democrats in sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal for a company to deny employees certain health benefits, including birth control, if they are required to be covered by federal health care law.

The bill is a response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which says closely held companies can refuse to provide such benefits if the owners have religious objections. Sponsors are calling it the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act.

It is unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled House, where conservatives praise the Hobby Lobby decision as a victory for religious liberty.

State To Spend $500,000 To Furnish New Anchorage Office

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

The state will spend up to half a million dollars to furnish the new Anchorage legislative information office.

The Legislative Council, which handles office policy for state lawmakers, awarded the contract to Think Office LLC at a Wednesday meeting. They’ve directed the firm to buy from the Swiss modern design company Vitra. Listed on the Legislative Council’s proposal are rolling chairs that retail for $1,500 and $300 metal coat racks.

Two Properties Up For Demolition To Make Way For KABATA

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The state Department of Transportation has announced plans to demolish two Anchorage properties to make way for Knik Arm Bridge construction.

Fairbanks Borough Pursuing Drone Park

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks North Star Borough wants to set up a special area for companies to develop and test drone aircraft for the military. The project would capitalize on recent year’s state laws aimed at helping woo the defense industry and spur economic development.

State’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Properties Announced

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

The Alaska Association for Historic Preservation on Tuesday released its list of the state’s 10 most endangered historic properties for 2014.

The Alaska Marine Advisory Tracks The Effectiveness Of Whale Pingers

Elizabeth Jenkins, KFSK – Petersburg

As commercial fishing fleets head out on the water in Southeast Alaska this summer, some could run into problems with an expanding whale population. Whales can destroy nets and even become entangled in them. But a device being used regionally aims to prevent that. Marine mammal specialists are trying to determine its effectiveness and troubleshoot problems.

Big Rule Change Comes To Yukon Quest

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race will have a new set of rules in 2015.  Overall rest time has been decreased by two hours, but mushers will be required to make more mandatory stops along the 1000 mile trail.

Subsistence Fishermen Say Commercial Chum Fishing Is Too Early

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

As the Kuskokwim River king salmon run comes to an end, the Department of Fish and Game is looking toward a commercial chum opening in the lower river Friday. But in a year with unprecedented Chinook restrictions and increased reliance on chum salmon, many middle river fishermen say it’s too early.

Foundation Hears Funding Aims of Bering Strait Communities

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

The Rasmuson Foundation awarded more than $30 million in grants in 2013. But in the last few years only about one percent of that money has gone for projects in the Bering Straits Region. Foundation members traveled to small communities in the region last week to see what kinds of programs residents would like to see funded.