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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
May 14, 2018

Front Page Feature Photo By SUSAN HOYT

Mallard Ducks
A group of mallard ducks on the ground is call a "sord", but when in flight, it is called a "flock".  It is easy to tell the males from the female mallards because the male mallards have grayish or brownish feathers, glossy green colored head, white collar around the neck, some purple wing feathers. The male has very curly tail feathers during mating season. The smaller female is brown, black and white to help her blend in with the vegetation.
Far-north mallards thrive on the edge
Front Page Feature Photo By SUSAN HOYT ©2018

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Alaska: 30th Alaska State Legislature Adjourns Sine Die By MARY KAUFFMAN - After a flurry of legislative action passing a budget approving $4.8 billion for government services and capital projects, the Alaska House of Representatives joined the Alaska Senate in adjourning the Second Session of the 30th Alaska Legislature sine die early Sunday morning.

“Lawmakers in the House and Senate - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents - worked together to reach a budget compromise.” said Governor Bill Walker. “I commend the Legislature for passing a budget on time, and addressing the vast majority of the budget deficit. Steps taken during this administration have closed 80 percent of what was a $3.7 billion dollar deficit. Alaska has turned the corner.”

Lawmakers agreed with many legislative and spending priorities proposed by Governor Bill Walker in December, passing the Governor’s most important legislative goals focused on building a safer, smarter, and stronger Alaska. 

Alaska Senate President Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) said, “The Senate stopped a series of new tax proposals - including a personal income tax - held the line on spending, protected the Permanent Fund from a raid, approved a plan to pay down our debts, and addressed crime. At every point, and with every policy we pursued, our guiding principles were always in focus: Government should be limited, people should be free, and we must protect the private sector of the economy.” 

Key components of this year’s spending plan include:

The state operating budget for Fiscal Year 2019 will invest more in public safety and also passed elements of Governor Walker’s Public Safety Action Plan  which is designed to improve the quality and fairness of Alaska’s justice system. 

Legislators approved $27 million of the Governor’s public safety priorities, as well as $7 million for other public safety concerns. This allows for more prosecutors in Anchorage, Bethel, and Kotzebue, more frequent trooper travel to rural communities, a statewide drug prosecutor, investigators to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and more.

Lawmakers approved $3.5 million to begin enhancing 911 services. Governor Walker requested $9.5 million to modernize the system.

Each Alaskan will receive a $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend. The Alaska House of Representatives previously resended its March 26th amendent in April that added the full $2,707 PFD for each Alaskan, providing instead a PFD of $1,600.

Some legislatures are saying dividends in 2018 are going forward possibly because of SB 26, which they say will guarantee the longevity of the Permanent Fund and a robust dividend program by making sure draws from the fund are structured and sustainable. SB 26 is said will reduce this year’s deficit from $2.4 billion to $700 million. 

The passage of SB 26 is said to be a landmark achievement for the State of Alaska. Passing SB 26 closes the majority of Alaska’s deficit, and puts Alaska on track toward a stable economy, new investments, and unprecedented opportunities on Alaska’s doorstep. 

Lawmakers approved a $20 million increase in school funding for the upcoming school year, forward funded education for the year after with a $30 million increase, and invested $19.5 million for improvement grants over the next several years. Lawmakers say parents and teachers deserve certainty that Alaska’s schools will be funded consistently each year. Forward funding education, will give Alaska’s schools and teachers the resources and confidence they deserve, without fear of annual pink slips.

The Legislature's budget also invested $10 million into the university budget, to help prioritize programs and focus on what they do best: educating Alaskans.

Legislators also approved Governor Walker’s proposal to use bonds to pay oil tax credits owed to small oil and gas exploration companies. HB 331 creates a State corporation authorized to issue up to $1 billion in bonds for the sole purpose of purchasing outstanding oil and gas tax credits. The bill is said would also provide incentives for companies to receive a smaller discount on their credits if companies share seismic data with the state, agree to a larger royalty share for the state from some fields, or commit to reinvest the funds back into Alaska within two years. In exchange for getting paid now rather than waiting years, small companies that are owed credits will accept a discounted rate, saving the state a significant amount of money.

This legislation will issue bond debt to pay off the more than $800 million balance the state owes for oil and gas tax credits. According to the Alaska House, the bill would discount the tax credit payments to more than cover the additional cost to the state of interest on the bond debt, which the state will pay down over the next decade. In this manner, those supporting the legislation say companies owed credits receive cash they can reinvest in additional development today while keeping the measure revenue neutral or revenue positive for the State of Alaska.

Legislators also funded the Governor’s proposal to maintain the senior benefits program through June of 2024, which assists nearly 12,000 low-income elders and pioneers across Alaska. The Senior Benefits Program provides a modest monthly cash assistance of $76, $175 or $250 monthly payments to help buy essential items necessary such as groceries, medication, rent, utilities, etc.  Eligibility is determined based on the three tiers of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for Alaska. Not all senior citizens are eligible. (House Bill 236).

Alaska Senate Majority Leader Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) said,  “We thank Alaskans for remaining engaged and reaching out to us on what is most important. We heard you. We removed the ‘Welcome to Alaska’ sign for criminals from elsewhere while tightening up our laws so that they are bad for criminals and good for law-abiding Alaskans. Fiscally, we prioritized what needed to be done and remained on the high road toward sustainability. We stood strong when oil prices were low to avoid permanently impacting Alaskans with taxes and unnecessary financial burden.  We reduced the operating budget significantly and prioritized key services Alaskans count on in their daily lives. We protected the health of the Permanent Fund and PFDs in perpetuity without restructuring the Fund or the existing dividend formula. The Senate’s actions helped to ensure that the worst of the recession is behind us and a promising future lies ahead.”

“We sent a clear message to criminals across the state and in the Lower 48: You are not welcome here. This session, we put an end to ‘catch-and-release,’ and gave police and prosecutors the tools they need to fight crime and restore law and order,” said Sen. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) chairman of the Alaska Senate Rules Committee.

Co-chair of the Alaska Senate Finance Committee Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) said , “With fewer resources available, the Senate prioritized the state’s constitutional obligations and passage of Senate Bill 26 to provide stability to our economy. With an endowment model limiting the amount of money legislators can draw from Permanent Fund earnings, businesses and entrepreneurs can confidentially invest in Alaska for the long-term. And Alaskans can rest assured that the state has provided adequate funding for the troopers, educators and heath care providers they rely on every day.” 

Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel) co-chair of the Alaska Senate Finance Committee said, "The 30th Alaska Legislature took historic action this year to address the state’s fiscal challenge. For the first time in our state’s history, we are utilizing the Permanent Fund for one of its original purposes: to pay for state services when revenue from oil production is not enough.” 

Members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition also reflected on their legislative achievements of the session. 

“Goal number one of most politicians is to avoid political risk at all cost. That doesn’t apply to the men and women of the Alaska House Majority Coalition. We took huge political risks over the past two years and set an example for openness and transparency I hope future legislatures will emulate. Too often politics is judged by who wins and who loses. I admit that we lost some, but I stand proudly with my House Majority colleagues in celebrating our wins. We faced more obstacles to success than any legislature in Alaska’s history, and as I step away from the House I judge our Coalition a success,” said Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks), House Finance Committee member.

Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) House Finance Committee member said, “Nearly every day I speak with people who are concerned about the future of Alaska. I share many of those concerns. Our job as lawmakers is to work every day to help people and to secure a brighter future for our great state. My colleagues in the Alaska House Majority Coalition worked diligently for the past two years on solutions. We did this by ditching the old pattern of partisan politics in favor of hard work and listening to the will of the people.” - More...
Monday PM - May 14, 2018


Alaska: New Price Transparency Requirements for Health Care Providers in Alaska - The Alaska Legislature reached a compromise on the last day of the legislative session to pass a health care price transparency measure originally put forward by Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage). SenateBill 105 was amended to include language previously passed by the Alaska House of Representatives in House Bill 123 to require health care providers and facilities to post health care price information in their public reception areas and online.

Providers will also be required to provide that information to the State of Alaska, which will make it available on the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ website. The measure also allows patients to have the option of receiving a good faith estimate of nonemergency procedures and services upon request from health care insurers, providers, or facilities. The good faith estimate provision was modeled on an ordinance adopted in Anchorage last year.

“Health care is one of the only services where consumers have almost no idea how much it will cost before committing to payment. In Alaska, we have some of the highest health care costs in the nation. I hope this measure can give consumers the price information they need to be informed consumers. This won’t solve all of our health care cost challenges in Alaska, but it’s a good first step,” said Rep. Spohnholz.  - More...
Monday PM - May 14, 2018

Alaska: Budget Deal Reached; State Operating Budget Passes the Alaska Legislature; FY 2019 Budget Funds a $1,600 PFD and Includes More Money for Public Safety By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaska Legislature on Saturday concurred with the final version of the state operating budget for Fiscal Year 2019, totaling $3.1 billion in unrestricted general funds (UGF) for agency and statewide operations.  

The operating budget, HB 286, excludes the bulk of FY 2019 education funding of $1.28 billion which is covered in a different bill, HB 287. HB 287 delivers up to two years of funding for K-12 education and was signed into law by the Governor on May 3, 2018.    

With the addition of forward-funding education, the FY 2019 operating budget appropriates roughly $4.4 billion in UGF [unrestricted general fund], which is legislators support the budget say is a $1 billion cut from FY 2015. 

In addition, the budget includes $1 billion to pay each eligible Alaskan a $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend.  

The compromise budget agreement between the Alaska House of Representatives and the Alaska State Senate resulted in the passage of the fiscal year 2019 operating budget for the State of Alaska. Saturday’s budget deal prevents any disruption in essential public services as the State of Alaska enters the busy summer tourism and fishing seasons. House Bill 286 features total General Fund spending of $6.27 billion.

The budget includes Alaska House Majority Coalition priorities such as $942 million to inflation-proof the value of the $65 billion Alaska Permanent Fund, $1.02 billion to pay for $1,600 Permanent Fund Dividends for each eligible Alaskan, a $10 million investment in the University of Alaska above the Governor’s proposal, and multiple measures to improve public safety and law enforcement in Alaska.


“This budget is the culmination of a lot of hard work and compromises on all sides. Our Coalition fought hard for a larger Permanent Fund Dividend because we know how vital PFDs are to Alaskans. The continued long-term health of the Permanent Fund, and in turn the PFD, is a key priority for our coalition, so we stood strong in demanding that the fund be inflation-proofed for the first time in three years,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon  (D-Dillingham).

Edgmon said, “Throughout the public process to develop this budget, the people of Alaska were loud and clear that public safety is a major priority. Our Coalition worked to ensure no cuts to State Troopers, and we insisted on funding for more prosecutors and public defenders as part of the budget compromise.” 

The FY 19 state operating budget incorporates the rules-based Percent of Market Value (POMV) approach that lawmakers approved earlier this week to access the earnings of the $65 billion Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for essential public services and PFDs. The 5.25 percent draw totals $2.7 billion. $1.69 billion will be used to help pay for public services like public education, State Troopers, fish and game management, and road maintenance. $1.02 billion will be used to fund $1,600 PFDs this fall. 

“Developing a responsible budget during a fiscal crisis is no easy task. We partially did that with the budget bills that passed today. I take comfort in knowing that by passing a budget in a timely manner the State of Alaska can deliver the essential public services that keep our state running. Further action will be needed to ensure sustainable income for our public services. I represent an area heavily dependent on the tourism and commercial fishing industries, and this budget allows those industries to go forward without interruption,” said House Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton  (R-Homer), who served as the lead negotiator for the House on the HB 286 Conference Committee. 

Alaska Senate Democratic Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) said in a prepared statement, "No budget is perfect, but this one contains many valuable and important items, especially given our fiscal constraints. In the spirit of cooperation, I applaud the efforts of the Finance co-chairs and am pleased we could reach a compromise to get the people's work done."

Senator Gardner said, ""Unfortunately, there is still work left to be done to balance our budget, recover Alaska's economy, and protect Alaskans' PFDs for future generations to come. Alaska is still in need of a comprehensive and sustainable fiscal plan, and I hope next year that will be the Legislature's focus."

"I appreciate the House Majority Coalition and their efforts to early fund education, continuing access to pre-k education, and inflation-proofing the Permanent Fund for the first time in three years. I want to also thank the co-chairs of Senate Finance for providing an open door and including the Senate Democrats in the process to achieve a budget compromise," said Gardner.

“The Legislature came together this year, provided Alaska with fiscal stability and protected the Permanent Fund,” said Sen. Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel), co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “Passage of this budget is a significant moment in Alaska’s history when, for the first time, we are utilizing the Permanent Fund for one of its original purposes: to pay for state services when oil revenue is not enough.”  - More...
Monday PM - May 14, 2018



jpg Danny Tyree

DANNY TYREE: The Royal Wedding: Something For Everyone - I'm an early riser, so I may very well watch the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19, just as I watched the wedding of Harry's parents in July of 1981.

That's assuming I haven't succumbed to wedding-information fatigue by then.

Yes, the 24-hour news cycle has given us a deluge of facts and speculation about the guest list, the bride and groom's net worth, the wedding gown, the honeymoon, Israeli intelligence revelations about the structural integrity of the sporks for the reception, etc.

I'm surprised we haven't seen more about security measures for the wedding. Satellite surveillance shows that a caravan is trekking to Windsor Castle from a castle in Scotland to demand relief from second-rate caviar.

The British newspaper The Guardian pointed out that Markle will be the first American royal bride since Grace Kelly married into Monaco's House of Grimaldi way back in 1956! Oh, there have been opportunities; but the overbooked American lifestyle puts such nuptials on the back burner. ("Gotta straighten out my boss's latest mess, footnote my doctoral dissertation, find mom and dad a new assisted-living facility. haul kids to three soccer matches .... THEN maybe I can acknowledge flirtation from Count What's-His-Name...")

Once upon a time, many commoners felt sorry for those who married into royalty and had to live under a microscope; but loss of privacy has become much more egalitarian. There was a certain roguish distinction when a member of the royal family, for instance, engaged in a little hanky-panky while on a fox hunt; but there's scant glamor when Joe Blow faces social media scrutiny. ("Mark Zuckerberg's algorithms tell us you've been quite interested in toenail fungus remedies and inflatable women...")

Much has been written about how radically times have changed in order for Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, to give her royal blessing to his union with a divorced biracial American. But by the time Harry and Meghan's children get engaged, the comment will probably be, "You want to marry a Martian artificial intelligence trapped in a Venusian artificial intelligence's body? How cliche!"

Some observers worry that the future Duchess of Sussex will be bored out of her skull by her new responsibilities. But surely a quiet evening of "Netflix and dedicate a nuclear submarine and chill" can't be all that bad. - More...
Monday PM - May 14, 2018

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jpg Letter / Opinion

HB 312 strips away your rights By Andree McLeod - Lawmakers have again willfully and intentionally stripped away constitutionally protected rights of due process. House Bill 312 is, in part, an Act relating to arrest without a warrant for assault in the fourth degree at a health care facility. It impacts everyone, especially people who live with brain illness and cognitive impairments, such as autism, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Traumatic Brain Injury, and mental illness, among other brain illness.

In their attempt to deal with an increased crime rate, lawmakers found the courage to strip away the rights of individuals who are at their most vulnerable, when they re brought to medical facilities experiencing confusion and severe bouts of psychosis, mania, disorientation, and other symptoms of brain and cognitive impairments unrelated to substance abuse. - More...
Friday PM - May 11, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

U.S. Coast Guard Earth Day Community Cleanup By Jerry Cegelske - Once again members of the U.S. Coast Guard participated in the cleanup of areas of the Borough where trash and litter have been intentionally dumped over the last year.  This is the 13th year they have taken time to clean up various areas of the community, including some of the most challenging areas to work in or to remove the trash from.   Some of the main areas worked on Friday the 27th were Whipple Creek, Revilla Road and Troller’s Creek under the new bridge on Knudson Cove Road.  It was nice to see their enthusiasm as they attacked the litter and trash dumped at those areas.  The fact that the weather cooperated with sunshine and ideal temperatures with no rain may have had something to do with it.

Troller’s Creek was a challenge as it is about 50 feet from the bridge to the creek bottom.  The members working there brought up two televisions, tires, bicycles, a garage door, an old computer, a transmission and other car parts, a trash can they used to get trash from the creek bed to the bridge, boat trailer jack, lumber, pipe, along with a lot of other trash.  One treasure was a steel Coke can that you had to use a pointed bottle opener to open.  It is expected that this is one area that will be worked on next year as they were not able to remove everything that was in the creek before it got too late in the day. - More...
Monday PM - May 07, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Restitution for Victims of Violent Crime By Fred Dyson - The Alaska Legislature just united 60 to 0 to strike a great blow for restitution for the victims of violent crime by passing HB 216.  This bill allows the "Criminal Fund" which comes from the Permanent Fund Dividends of incarcerated felons to be used as "bridging monies" to reimburse victims when the perpetrator is unable to do so.  It does NOT release the perpetrator from his/her responsibility to pay the victim or reimburse the "Criminal Fund".  HB 216 also provides dollars for child support and much needed treatment for both victims and perpetrators. - More...
Monday PM - May 07, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

THE OWNED MAN By David G Hanger - While there is little to no doubt that U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan has not read any portion of this new tax law he hypes so loudly, it is less clear whether he is just crass and stupid, and expects you to be the same, or whether he is just being intentionally deceitful, for any advantage this new tax law might provide the individual citizens and taxpayers of this state is purely accidental; and in many instances instead of a substantial tax decrease you will be getting a substantial tax increase, in some individual cases as much as 40%+. Mr. Sullivan is the bought and sold property of special interests and the possessor of the moniker, Senator Conoco-Phillips, a well-earned appendage. In 2018 his buddies will pay 7% of the total revenue collected by the U.S. Government, and 85% is collected from you in the form of individual income tax and payroll tax charges: $218 billion from corporations (7%), $1.7 trillion in individual income taxes (50%), $1.2 trillion in payroll taxes (35%). As a special treat to individual Alaska taxpayers Senator Conoco-Phillips signed off on outlawing all travel deductions and union dues, etc. for anyone who gets paid on a W2. No one, of course, travels much for work in Alaska, so hardly anyone (beyond the thousands affected) will see their individual tax liabilities spike by 10% to 40%. - More...
Monday PM - May 07, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Regulation of education stifles progress By Dan Weber - Have we lost sight of the purpose of America’s education system? It is supposed to be focused on providing the nation’s next generations with the knowledge, moral values and skillsets they need to be responsible and productive citizens. However, federal over-regulation has created an intrusive atmosphere in our schools that stifles progress.

Education consultant and activist, John Danielson, points out that schooling is a local matter. Danielson has served as senior advisor to one US Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, and Chief of Staff to another, Rod Paige. - More...
Monday PM - May 07, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

An Argument on How Traditional Prevention is Ending in Our Society By Liberty-Anne Johnson - In February, it was reported online by KRBD that Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly needed to appropriate the 15% of tobacco tax revenue as previously agreed through ballot measure. Despite being a victim of brain and eye hacking via remote to be professionally polite and disclose current circumstance, I decided to write a letter to the Ketchikan Borough Assembly about the appropriation given my former prevention position in that community. Writing the letter from a more personable level rather than professional prevention analytical perspective which seemingly resulted according to the KRBD article immediately after that meeting with report of absent in-depth discussion from the borough assembly with additional request of agency proposals by them with additional testimony by the communications manager from the medical center at that specific meeting. My suggestion was to appropriate the funds for small grants for proposed projects by individuals, small independent groups, the art community, and local businesses to conduct related projects with possibility partnering with other businesses. Further ideas for tobacco tax uses through these grants included promoting or developing social media content, or other research advancements related to tobacco prevention or cessation rather than seeking typical agency outcomes to give the community some buy-in. - More...
Monday PM - May 07, 2018

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