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March 06, 2023

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Alaska: Constitutional Amendment Proposed to Prevent Legislature from Overspending the Permanent Fund  - Today, a group of Republican, Democratic, and Independent legislators announced the introduction of a constitutional amendment to fully protect the Alaska Permanent Fund in the Constitution.  

Currently, the Permanent Fund is structured as two accounts:  the Principal and the Earnings Reserve Account. The Alaska Constitution prohibits the spending of the Principal without a vote of the people. The Earnings Reserve Account, on the other hand, is entirely available for the Legislature to spend. The Legislature adopted statutes in 2018 that allow the sustainable spending of the Permanent Fund’s earnings. Still, those statutes do not stop the Legislature from passing budgets that spend Permanent Fund earnings more than those sustainable limits.  

“Right now, only part of the Permanent Fund is protected,” said Representative Cliff Groh (D-Anchorage). “Current law allows the Legislature to spend the entire Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account by a simple majority vote. We need this constitutional amendment to prevent the Legislature from blowing a critical part of the Permanent Fund in a spree.”

Introduced as House Joint Resolution 9, the proposed constitutional amendment would combine the Permanent Fund Principal and the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account into a single constitutionally protected account.  Under this proposed amendment, the Legislature would be allowed to appropriate each year a maximum of five percent (5%) of the market value of that new constitutionally safeguarded account as calculated over the first five of the preceding six fiscal years. Experts have told the Legislature that these limits make that spending rate sustainable under this Percent of Market Value (“POMV”) system.  

The Permanent Fund’s Trustees have recommended this change since 2003.  This constitutional amendment was also urged by the Fiscal Policy Working Group, a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers who proposed a comprehensive solution for the State of Alaska’s structural deficit in 2021.

If the resolution proposing the constitutional amendment passes the Legislature and is approved by voters, the change will align the Permanent Fund with best practices in the financial industry. The constitutionally limited POMV draw will serve as a cap on revenues and an effective spending cap, limiting the amount of money that the Legislature can appropriate to no more than five percent of the Permanent Fund’s total market value.  The new structure that this constitutional amendment would create would also automatically build in inflation-proofing of the Permanent Fund without requiring an annual appropriation by the Legislature. 

The Permanent Fund is a critical source of revenue to pay for roads and schools as well as Permanent Fund Dividends.  Putting the POMV rules in the Alaska Constitution will provide a stable and reliable funding source for future generations. This approach provides the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation certainty in managing assets, allowing a greater return on the Permanent Fund’s investments.

"As a lifelong Alaskan who helped create the Permanent Fund Dividend, I am proud to introduce this resolution to help provide a secure financial future for Alaska," Representative Groh said. “While I personally support enshrining the Permanent Fund Dividend in the Constitution, this proposed resolution sets aside the PFD question and focuses solely on constitutionally protecting the Permanent Fund itself.” 

"We can’t leave a critical part of the Permanent Fund out there looking like a tempting piggy bank for the Legislature," said Rep. Jesse Sumner (R-Wasilla)."Constitutionalizing the POMV draw will ensure the stability of the Permanent Fund for future generations."

“I like to call this the ‘Protect Our Permanent Fund Forever’ proposal," said Rep. Alyse Galvin (I-Anchorage). "It will hold the Legislature accountable to the people of Alaska.” - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

Alaska: New Retirement Package for Alaska Public Employees and Teachers Introduced -  Senator Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage) last week introduced Senate Bill 88 to establish a new retirement system for public employees and teachers. Upon introduction, the bill received 9 co-sponsors. The legislation would create a new defined benefit system for public employees and teachers and provide an option for current Tier IV employees to convert their defined compensation plan to the new retirement system.

“As we see with every industry in Alaska, the state is also having trouble recruiting and retaining experienced workers,” said Sen. Cathy Giessel. “We are at a point where we cannot provide basic government services to the most vulnerable Alaskans, as well as our business community. We need to take steps to become competitive in the labor market, and this legislation could be a major step forward to solve many of the workforce shortages the state is facing.”

Many components of this new tier are similar to PERS Tier III and TRS Tier II. But, through analysis, revisions, and compromises, components that caused concerns about past retirement systems are addressed. For example, this proposal increases the employee contribution rate from prior pension retirement systems and makes it adjustable from 8-10% to have employees share in the system’s financial solvency risk. It also maintains the current system’s retiree medical coverage plan in place to keep the state’s liability toward medical costs as low as possible. - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

Alaska: House Votes to Reject Alaska Compensation Commission Report - On a unanimous vote today, the House passed Senate Bill 86 rejecting the recommendations of the Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission. The report, which recommends salary increases for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and executive department heads would have automatically gone into effect 60 days from its issuance barring legislative action. 

"Having just heard from our Anchorage constituents over the weekend, it is even more clear that our spending priorities should be focused first and foremost on increasing the Base Student Allocation (BSA) to a meaningful level," said Representative Zack Fields (D-Anchorage). - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

SitNews Front Page Photo By CHARLOTTE NYGREN

Tongass Sunset Sunday
SitNews Front Page Photo By CHARLOTTE NYGREN ©2023
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Alaska: Legislation Introduced to Increase the Minimum Age for Tobacco and E-Cigarettes From 19 to 21 - Last week, Senate President Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak)introduced Senate Bill 89, which seeks to increase the minimum age to buy, sell, and possess tobacco and E-cigarettes from 19 to 21 years old, and also places a point-of-sale (retail sales) tax on electronic smoking products (ESPs). The tax would apply to closed-system ESPs when sealed and sold as a disposable unit, or otherwise only to the liquid when sold separately from other hardware components.

In December 2019, Congress passed, and the President signed into law a provision raising the national age of sale and possession for all tobacco, nicotine, and ESP products to age 21 without exceptions. Updating Alaska statutes from 19 to 21 to mirror the federal minimum age of sale and possession of these products will allow our state enforcement program to become more effective.

“Taking additional steps to prevent illegal vendor sales is a critical part of the overall effort to reduce youth smoking and preventing Alaskans from becoming long-term smokers,” said Sen. Gary Stevens. “We continue to see the tobacco use rate incline, especially among young Alaskans getting access to vaping products. Alaska has an active underage sales enforcement program which has reduced sales of smoking products to minors, but more steps are required to see Alaska’s tobacco use rate decline, especially among young Alaskans.” - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

Alaska: Local Lumber Grading Bill Introduced -  Senator Jesse Bjorkman (R-Nikiski) introduced Senate Bill 87 last week to allow Alaskan sawmill operators who have been State certified to produce and grade dimensional lumber for use in some residential construction applications. Representative Jesse Sumner (R-Wasilla) expects to introduce companion legislation in the House on Friday. 

“Allowing for local lumber grading in Alaska will create economic opportunities for small businesses, provide an opportunity for Alaskans to purchase local products, and perhaps offer building materials at a lower cost than dimensional lumber from the lower 48,” said Senator Bjorkman. “It will also encourage higher value-added use of materials harvested from forest thinning and hazardous fuels reduction projects that would otherwise be piled and burned.”

Alaska is struggling to meet housing shortages across the state, made worse by the significant increase in the cost of construction materials and lag time due to supply chain issues. Currently, dimensional lumber used in construction must be graded and stamped by third-party grading agencies in order to meet lender requirements and building codes.

“Local lumber has been used successfully to build sturdy houses, boats, and even aircraft parts for generations already,” said Trevor Kauffman, Kenai Peninsula sawmill owner. “However, Alaska's relatively small forest products industry has not been able to bear the cost of Pacific Northwest lumber grading services, in most cases. To use an expression from the forest industry, the local use lumber program will "grease the skids" for skilled Alaskans to bring high quality wood products to market.” - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

SitNews Front Page Photo By JOHN FLORA

The Worm Moon
As it appears Sunday before its peak illumination. Named the worm moon by various Native American tribes in the 18th century in reference to different creatures emerging from their winter hideouts to welcome spring, the 2023 March moon will reach peak illumination at 7:42 a.m. ET Tuesday, March 7, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. 
Photo taken from Ketchikan's bypass, March 05, 2023. Snow covered Deer Mountain is in the background.
SitNews Front Page Photo By JOHN FLORA ©2023
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Alaska: Alaska Halibut Season Opens March 10th; NOAA announces 2023 charter and commercial halibut management measures - Pacific halibut season opens Sunday, March 10 statewide in Alaska. NOAA Fisheries filed notice of their effectiveness in the Federal Register today, which will publish March 7, 2023. The regulations, adopted at the annual meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) in January, took effect when the Secretary of State accepted them, with the Secretary of Commerce’s concurrence.  

Included in this season’s federal regulations are the catch limits established by the IPHC and basic regulations for the commercial and sport halibut fisheries. Overall, the 2023 catch limits for the combined commercial and charter halibut fisheries in Alaska are lower than in 2022.

This final rule also implements management measures for the charter halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A. These measures are necessary to keep charter harvests within their respective allocations under a catch sharing plan with the directed commercial fishery.  

For commercial and charter halibut fishers in Alaska, the following regulations are in effect:

In Area 2C (Southeast Alaska):

Charter Anglers are restricted to one halibut per day, with a reverse slot limit where retained halibut must be less than or equal to 40 inches, or greater than or equal to 80 inches.

• All Mondays will be closed to halibut retention from July 24 to December 31, 2023. - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

Alaska: DOJ Investigation Results in Settlement Agreement with Alaska School District Concerning Discriminatory Seclusion and Restraint Practices - The United States Justice Department announced recently a settlement agreement with the Anchorage School District in Anchorage, Alaska, to address the discriminatory use of seclusion and restraint against students with disabilities. The settlement, which resolves the department’s investigation under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), will protect students with disabilities by eliminating seclusion and prohibiting discriminatory restraints.

The department’s investigation concluded that the district repeatedly and inappropriately secluded and restrained students with disabilities in violation of Title II. Despite state law and the district’s own policy, and contrary to generally accepted practice, the district did not limit its use of restraint and seclusion to emergency situations. Rather, the district used restraint and seclusion to address noncompliant student behavior, resulting in students missing large amounts of instructional time. Additionally, some students subjected to seclusion engaged in self-harm and expressed suicidal ideation. 

“When schools use seclusion and improper restraints as the default method of managing the behavior of students with disabilities, they violate the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement will help safeguard the civil rights of students with disabilities and ensure that the district adheres to policies that are equity-focused, child-centered and trauma-informed. The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously investigate allegations of discrimination on the basis of disability in public schools and focus on the practice of seclusion. In districts across the country, we have seen seclusion used against students with disabilities as an improper crisis response and in ways that escalate student behavior and can lead to self-harm.” - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

Fishermen-led projects increase understanding of Southeast Alaska ecosystem

Fishermen-led projects increase understanding of Southeast Alaska ecosystem
Troller fishing boat.
Photo by Jim Moore.


Southeast Alaska: Fishermen-led projects increase understanding of Southeast Alaska ecosystem - Managers, biologists and oceanographers need information to understand the marine habitat and distribution of salmon and other fish. Meanwhile, Southeast Alaska’s approximately 1,500 salmon trollers are on the water throughout the year. These fishing vessels can offer researchers an alternative to using expensive and limited chartered research vessels to gather year-round ocean data. 

New partnerships, led by the Alaska Trollers Association (ATA) and facilitated by Alaska Sea Grant, are working to make that happen with two projects. The first project is funded by Alaska Sea Grant and the Alaska Ocean Observing System and directed by UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences oceanographer Tyler Hennon. The scientists are providing fishermen with instruments to measure the temperature and salinity of the water. The instruments are called CTDs because they measure conductivity, temperature, and depth throughout the water column. Fishermen collect samples year-round at set stations near the fishing grounds and along frequently used transit routes to provide a robust time series of environmental conditions.

The second is a pilot project, with funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to resurrect and update a logbook program that was active from 1976–1991. Fishermen will collect a wide range of physical and biological information on the marine ecosystem. The logbooks are electronic and can provide managers and researchers real time access to data. 

The logbooks are designed by Realtime Data Holdings, an Australian-based company that designs tablet-based logbooks for commercial fishermen. Project partner Ocean Data Network will coordinate the storage and distribution of data to researchers and managers, ensuring confidentiality for participating fishermen. After collection mechanisms are designed this winter, 10 trollers will pilot the logbook system, beginning in May 2023 and continuing at least through summer 2024.

Researchers, including Hennon, and others from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Ocean Observing System, and Sitka Sound Science Center will use these data to address questions ranging from abundance and distribution of king salmon forage fish, to oceanographic conditions in the understudied inside waters of Southeast Alaska. - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

Alaska: Resolution Urging Defense of Alaska Fisheries Passes House - Last Thursday, on a vote of 35-1, the House passed House Joint Resolution 5 by Representative Himschoot calling on the Federal Government and State of Alaska to continue to defend Alaska’s fisheries, including the Southeast Alaska troll fishery and do everything within their power to keep the fishery open.

The Southeast Alaska troll salmon fishery is being threatened by a lawsuit filed by the Washington State-based environmental group Wild Fish Conservancy, which seeks to stop the Southeast troll fishery over what the group sees as impacting southern resident killer whales in Puget Sound. A recent report from a Magistrate Judge in Washington recommended not allowing the retention of Chinook during the winter and summer troll seasons of the Southeast Alaska troll fishery. This would be devastating for the troll fleet and have a significant economic impact on the region.

“With overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, this suit seeks to hold the Southeast Alaska troll fishery responsible for the decline in southern resident killer whales, about 1000 miles to the south,” said Representative Rebecca Himschoot (District 2 - Sitka). “The Southeast troll fishery has been sustainably managed for over a hundred years, and it continues to be today, and I am thankful the legislature recognizes the importance of this resolution.” 

“To the commercial troll fishermen, we have your back. Passing this resolution was imperative for the legislature to signal our overwhelming support for our fishermen and state as they fight this bunk lawsuit,” Representative Dan Ortiz (District 1 - Ketchikan).  - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

The demise of Scotch Cap lighthouse

The demise of Scotch Cap lighthouse
Scotch Cap Lighthouse sits on the southwest shore of Unimak Island before the giant wave of April 1, 1946.
Photo courtesy NOAA/NGDC, Coast Guard. 


Alaska: The demise of Scotch Cap lighthouse By NED ROZELL - In spring of 1946, five men stationed at the Scotch Cap lighthouse had reasons to be happy. World War II was over. They had survived. Their lonely Coast Guard assignment on Unimak Island would be over in a few months.

But the lighthouse tenders would never return to their homes in the Lower 48. In the early morning of April 1, the earth ruptured deep within the Aleutian Trench 90 miles south. An immense block of ocean floor rose, tipping salt water across the North Pacific.

The earthquake was giant, at least magnitude 8.1. The tsunami that resulted killed 159 people in Hawaii, drowned a swimmer in Santa Cruz, banged up fishing boats in Chile and wrecked a hut on Antarctica. The curve of the Aleutians protected much of Alaska, but the five men at Scotch Cap had no chance.

A 130-foot wave struck the lighthouse at 2:18 a.m., leaving nothing but the foundation of the reinforced concrete structure. Though scientists long thought the wave was due to the earthquake rupture, John Miller of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver showed a mountain of rocks on the sea floor that appears to be from a massive underwater landslide. That slide might have created the giant wave that hit the lighthouse.

The story of Coast Guardsmen Anthony Petit, Jack Colvin, Dewey Dykstra, Leonard Pickering and Paul Ness is 77 years old and is spotty. Findable online is a memo to his superiors written by Coast Guard electrician Hoban Sanford, who was stationed on Unimak to maintain a radio direction-finding system.

Sanford was reading in his bunk early that April Fool’s morning in a building located on a terrace about 100 feet above the lighthouse.

A severe earthquake was felt,” Sanford wrote. “The building creaked and groaned loudly. Objects were shaken from my locker shelf. Duration of the quake was approximately 30 to 35 seconds.”

Knowing he was stationed on an island of restless mountains that include the steaming white pyramid of Shishaldin, Sanford looked inland for the glow of a possible eruption. He saw nothing but stars. - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

Springing forward into daylight saving time is a step back for health – a neurologist explains the medical evidence, and why this shift is worse than the fall time change

Springing forward into daylight saving time is a step back for health – a neurologist explains the medical evidence, and why this shift is worse than the fall time change


Alaska: Springing forward into daylight saving time is a step back for health – a neurologist explains the medical evidence, and why this shift is worse than the fall time change By BETH ANN MALOW - Daylight saving time is back again – amid some controversy.

As people in the U.S. prepare to set their clocks ahead one hour on Sunday, March 12, 2023, I find myself bracing for the annual ritual of media stories about the disruptions to daily routines caused by switching from standard time to daylight saving time.

About one-third of Americans say they don’t look forward to these twice-yearly time changes. And nearly two-thirds would like to eliminate them completely, compared to 21% who aren’t sure and 16% who would like to keep moving their clocks back and forth.

But the effects go beyond simple inconvenience. Researchers are discovering that “springing ahead” each March is connected with serious negative health effects, including an uptick in heart attacks and teen sleep deprivation. In contrast, the fall transition back to standard time is not associated with these health effects, as my co-authors and I noted in a 2020 commentary.

I’ve studied the pros and cons of these twice-annual rituals for more than five years as a professor of neurology and pediatrics and the director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s sleep division. It’s become clear to me and many of my colleagues that the transition to daylight saving time each spring affects health immediately after the clock change and also for the nearly eight months that Americans remain on daylight saving time.

The strong case for permanent standard time

Americans are split on whether they prefer permanent daylight saving time or permanent standard time.

However, the two time shifts – jolting as they may be – are not equal. Standard time most closely approximates natural light, with the sun directly overhead at or near noon. In contrast, during daylight saving time from March until November, the clock change resulting from daylight saving time causes natural light to be present one hour later in the morning and one hour later in the evening according to clock time.

Morning light is essential for helping to set the body’s natural rhythms: It wakes us up and improves alertness. Morning light also boosts mood – light boxes simulating natural light are prescribed for morning use to treat seasonal affective disorder.

Although the exact reasons why light activates us and benefits our mood are not yet known, this may be due to light’s effects on increasing levels of cortisol, a hormone that modulates the stress response or the effect of light on the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in emotions.

Adolescents also may be chronically sleep deprived due to school, sports and social activities. For instance, many children start school around 8 a.m. or earlier. This means that during daylight saving time, many young people get up and travel to school in pitch darkness. - More....
Monday - March 06, 2023

Columns - Commentary


TOM PURCELL: HEY, CHATGPT, DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY AOB - It’s at once amazing and troublesome.

I speak of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence application that was launched last November by OpenAI. In a matter of seconds, it can write apparently accurate articles or answer questions on a multitude of subjects.

When I asked ChatGPT what it is, it responded this way:

“I am designed to understand and generate human-like language based on the input I receive… My purpose is to assist and communicate with people in a variety of ways, from answering general knowledge questions to generating creative writing prompts.”

Creative writing prompts? I’m not so sure about that one.

Though it can write seemingly accurate and lucid articles in seconds — what a glorious time to be a lazy high school student — I don’t think it can ever understand the incredible complexity of human emotion, which is the heart of creativity. - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023


ELWWOD WATSON: DEPRESSION AND THE EXPECTATIONS OF MEN - ohn Fetterman’s announcement that he has checked himself into a hospital was met with bipartisan praise. Far right politicians from Texas senator Ted Cruz to fellow Pennsylvania centrist representative, Susan Wild, to New York left wing congressmen Richie Torres lavished support on the senator for publicly disclosing and confronting his illness.

Reaction to Fetterman’s predicament demonstrates the dramatic transformation of perception and attitudes toward public health and mental illness. For decades, it was seen as a stigma to be afflicted with such an ailment. Politicians were particularly vulnerable.

John Eagleton, a Missouri Democrat and a vice-presidential nominee in 1972, was hospitalized three times for depression and underwent electroshock therapy. The revelation of that news eventually doomed Eagleton’s political prospects, as presidential nominee George McGovern and other Democrats bigwigs encouraged him to withdraw from the ticket

Societal enlightenment and the progression of public attitudes notwithstanding, we still reside in a society where men have largely been conditioned to refrain from being too emotive in their feelings. Historically speaking, it has been seen as inappropriate for men to demonstrate any sort of personal vulnerability. Men who exposed their vulnerabilities were seen as less masculine or effeminate. - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023


PETER ROFF: IS AARP PUTTING PROFITS OVER THE INTERESTS OF ITS MEMBERS? - Washington is full of groups that claim to represent the interests of the American people. Some have lots of members, which makes them formidable actors in the ongoing effort to craft public policy.

Among the most powerful is AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons), which has developed a network of politically active seniors who vote and who defend their benefits zealously. That makes them a group the politicians fear, which gives them outsized influence on issues like healthcare.

According to a new report, what the group seems to be may not be what it is. “How AARP Puts Profits over Patients and Principles,” issued by a conservative non-profit called American Commitment, says that rather than being a genuine grassroots lobby organization, AARP’s ties to the health insurance industry have turned into something like a corporate influence operation working to sway the decisions of Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Many times, the report says, AARP has done things that create apparent conflicts of interest between the needs of the people the group claims to represent. - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023


CHRISTINE FLOWERS: MUDDLING OF GENDER DISTINCTIONS HAS FOUND PREVIOUSLY SACRED GROUND - In the last few years, it has become common to see people put their pronouns in their email sign-offs, and to hear the phrase “gender fluid.”

When I was growing up, “gender fluid” was something you were more likely to read about in a pornographic magazine than in polite conversation.

But that conversation has changed, radically, and it is now perfectly normal to have discussions about 12-year-olds who want full mastectomies, and grown biological men demanding entrance to the girls’ locker room.

And then, of course, there is Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who lectures the rest of us on how important it is to “affirm” a young child’s gender preference.

Talking about gender transition surgery for children and adolescents makes me angry. Calling Rachel Levine the highest-ranking “female” in the history of the Department of Health makes me angry.

The reason these things make me angry is that it appears that women are being erased under the guise of tolerance and compassion. - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023


FINANCIAL FOCUS: 401(k) door opens for small-business owners Provided By BEN EDWARDS, AAMS® - Are you a business owner who has wanted to offer a retirement plan to your employees, but you’ve been stymied by the costs involved? If so, you may be interested to learn about new legislation that can help open the door to the same type of plan enjoyed by employees of large companies.

At the end of 2022, President Biden signed into law the SECURE 2.0 Act, which, among many other provisions, provides tax credits for business owners who want to open a 401(k) plan.

The tax credit was introduced in the original SECURE Act in 2019, but it’s been significantly increased in the updated laws. If you have 50 or fewer employees, you can now claim a startup credit covering 100% of the costs associated with opening and administering a 401(k) plan, up to $5,000 for each of the first three years of your plan. To qualify for this credit, your business must have least one employee — besides yourself, if you’re the owner — who earns less than $150,000 a year. And you’re eligible for the credit even if you join a multiple employer plan (MEP), which, as you may know, is designed to encourage smaller businesses to share the administrative duties involved in offering tax-advantaged retirement plans.- More...
Monday - March 06, 2023


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jpg Opinion

2023 thoughts-called "Common Sense" By Al Johnson - Editor, while I cannot claim authorship on the following quotes, they seem timely so sharing as a community statement:

Why is it that when archeologist find human remains, they always determine that they are either male or female and none of the other hundreds of genders?

Why was it so many were more outraged that Brittney Griner was stuck in Russia than they were about Americans being stranded in Afghanistan?

How is it that the government can't control gasoline prices..... but the weather is something they can fix?

We're churning out a generation of poorly educated people with no skill, no ambition, no guidance, and no realistic expectations of what it means to go to work. - Mike Rowe.(NOTE-Alaska ranks 49th in the Nation second from the bottom) - More...
Monday - March 06, 2023

jpg Opinion

Educational System Malfunction in the State of Alaska By Robert Arnold - Our public schools system are failing our students, and ultimately our society will pay the price. Let’s look locally to see the picture, KAYHI has a wonderful history of turning out the great movers and shakers of this city and beyond. Today, the numbers don’t lie, and according to the superintendent enrollment rates are steadily dropping. Only 20.93% of high school students are proficient in reading and writing and only 12% are able to do standard math, most shocking 44.9% of the student body are chronically absent. The State of Alaska has a major problem, this has been going on for years. We rank at the bottom in education, compared to every other state in the Union. Why have we not taken action? Apathetically continuing, “the same ole, same ole,” it does not work anymore. Some States, like ours, at the bottom of the barrel, have begun to reform their systems, States like Arkansas, with the LEARNS program, and Florida have led the way.

The quest to raise the BSA by a $1000 dollars is being floated over the Alaska State Legislature. I ask the simple question, why are we losing students? During Covid parents were alarmed at what was passing as “education”, some did something about it, choosing a different path for their kids, dis-enrolling from public school and choosing other ways to educate their kids. Those students are ahead of their peers, but Mom and Dad got left with the bill, while each student gets $22,783 (State and Federal $),it is only for those who attends public school. Parent should have the choice where to send, or spend, their child’s education, it is in their hands, and public monies should follow the child. - More...
Saturday - February 25, 2023

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Increasing Alaska's Base Student Allocation By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Last week, the Alaska House Education Committee heard House Bill 65, "Increase the Base Student Allocation (BSA)." It was a brief hearing, acting solely as an introduction, but it was an essential first step during this legislative session in the conversation about education funding.

I have heard loud and clear from teachers, students, and school boards that schools are struggling. They are dealing with significant increases in costs like heating, insurance, and supplies while seeing state support for our schools remain mostly flat-funded over the past eight years. Class sizes are increasing, programs are being eliminated, and schools are even being closed at some locations around the state.

As the bill's sponsor, I wholeheartedly support increasing education funding. HB65 would raise the BSA by $1250 per eligible student for a total BSA per student of $7210. That is about a 20% increase, similar to the rate of inflation we have seen over the past several years.

A bit of sticker shock is associated with this increase: it would cost the state $321 million. And when it comes to discussing the costs of state services, the debate can get more impassioned. The state does not necessarily have extra cash lying around, and for every increase, there must be corresponding cuts elsewhere in the budget – especially cuts to the dividend (PFD).

While an increase in education funding may have a hefty price tag, it is tiny in comparison to the cost of the PFD. The Governor's proposed dividend for this upcoming year would cost the state $2.47 billion. (We currently spend about $1.23 billion on statewide education). Let me be clear: I am absolutely for protecting the PFD, especially for future generations of Alaskans, but I am not for sacrificing our youth's educational opportunities, the need for other essential state services, the need to make investments in deferred maintenance, and other capital budget investments in statewide infrastructure or to overdraw on the Earnings Reserve portion of the Permanent Fund to pay for it. - More...
Saturday - February 25, 2023

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Defense assets must reflect Alaska’s role as frontier outpost against threats By Governor Michael Dunleavy - Events over the past two weeks have been a useful reminder for our fellow Americans that Alaska holds a far more strategic position on the globe than our typical depiction in a box at the bottom of a map would indicate.

Most know that Alaska is huge, at two-and-a-half times the size of Texas. Fewer may know that we’re not only the farthest north and west state; we are also the farthest east. We’re so far east that the International Dateline has to jog around the island of Attu in the Aleutian chain to divide us from Russian territory.

We’re so far east that we’re closer to Australia than California is.

This isn’t just some trivia to impress your friends at your next get together, but to illustrate Alaska’s critical importance to our national defense.

At just a few miles from Russian territory, just a few hours from China, and within potential striking distance of North Korean missiles, Alaska is truly a frontier outpost standing on the front lines in between a rough neighborhood and North America.

Of the four objects shot down since Feb. 4, three have transited Alaska, and two were shot down by F-22 Raptors based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or JBER, in Anchorage on consecutive days Feb. 10 and 11.

There is much we still don’t know about these incidents, and the Biden Administration did little to reassure the public on Feb. 16 by announcing that the three objects shot down after the Chinese spy balloon were likely harmless private craft conducting some kind of research.

Not only that, but intelligence officials are now telling the public that the U.S. tracked the Chinese spy balloon from the moment it took off and still allowed it to transit the entire nation from Hawaii to Alaska to South Carolina.

How a hostile act went unanswered for days while other, apparently benign, objects were shot down immediately, is a question that remains unanswered. - More...
Saturday - February 25, 2023

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