The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

News Briefs

 

January 17, 2018



Legal pot

(AP) Three Alaska lawmakers joined forces to rewrite a resolution pertaining to the separation of federal marijuana regulations and the state's legal pot industry.

Democrat state Rep. David Guttenberg of Fairbanks, Independent state Rep. Jason Grenn of Anchorage and Republican state Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak have spearheaded the effort to rewrite the resolution, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Tuesday of last week.

The lawmakers' decision comes after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recent move to rescind what's known as the Cole Memorandum, an Obama-era policy discouraging the federal government from interfering with states' legal marijuana industries.

Guttenberg said Sessions' policy shift seeks to cut "Alaska's legal marijuana industry off at the knees."

"The policy shift announced last week denies the will of Alaskans, who voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis in 2014," Guttenberg said. "A federally imposed prohibition overriding strong local support drives good people to indirectly support criminals through the black market. Furthermore, it threatens an industry just beginning to provide real tax revenue to the state of Alaska."

Guttenberg wants Alaska residents to help rewrite the resolution, he said.

Net neutrality

(AP) An Alaska lawmaker is proposing regulations requiring internet service providers in the state practice net neutrality, despite the recent repeal of such regulations at the federal level.

The bill is necessary to help businesses in Alaska compete in a fair environment, Democratic State Rep. Scott Kawasaki said Friday in a news release.

"Net neutrality is more than just a lofty concept, it's a necessity, especially for Alaska's small businesses," he said. "Eliminating net neutrality will make it more difficult for small businesses to compete against large established businesses who can afford to pay for higher speeds and increased access to information."

Without net neutrality, internet providers will be able to speed up, slow down, or even block websites, requiring users to pay a premium to access their favorite sites, Kawasaki said.

Despite the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision to eliminate such internet rules, the fight to keep them in place on a federal level is still continuing on Capitol Hill. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said while she approves of the commission's actions, there is more to be done, KTUU-TV reported.

Lawmaker pay

(AP) Alaska lawmakers will continue to receive an annual salary of $50,400 after a special commission deadlocked on whether to cut the pay by 10 percent.

The vote by the State Officers Compensation Commission was 2-2, with one member absent Tuesday. The idea behind the proposed cut was that lawmakers shouldn't be exempt from the pain felt by other state employees.

Lawmakers can claim a daily allowance while in session, and the commission unanimously voted to keep the per diem at the federal level. However, the commission decided that if a lawmaker's primary residence is within 50 miles of where the session is held, they cannot claim the daily allowance.

This affects a small number of lawmakers when sessions are in Juneau. More would be affected during any special sessions in Anchorage.

Population down

(AP) Alaska's population declined for the first time in 29 years as the state's oil-driven recession continued through 2017.

State figures released on Wednesday listed the state's population at 737,080, the Juneau Empire reported. That's down 2,629 from 2016 and is the first decrease since 1988.

The number of people moving out was only partially balanced by the number of new births.

The state also had a record high in number of deaths this past year, at 4,530.

"The remarkable point is the net migration loss, and that caused a population loss between 2016 and 2017" state demographer Eddie Hunsinger said.

Population growth or decline is considered a significant indicator of a location's economic and social health.

Alaska lost 3,600 jobs between 2016 and 2017 and another 1,800 jobs are expected to be lost between 2017 and 2018, according to preliminary figures from the state Department of Labor.

A federal population estimate will be released in March, but the state's data is considered to be more accurate - although it has been off in the past.

Young challenger

(AP) An education advocate plans to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young for Alaska's lone House seat.

Alyse Galvin, who was launching her campaign Thursday, said change is needed.

Young is the longest-serving member of the House, first elected to the chamber in 1973. But Galvin said more needs to be done in areas such as early education, health care and in thinking about "the economy of the future."

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

She said Alaskans are tired of partisanship. "We're frustrated with Washington, more than ever now, I think," she said.

Galvin hopes to run as an independent on the Democratic party's primary ballot this summer.

A state superior court judge in October opened the door to allowing candidates not registered with the party to appear on party primary ballots. But the issue is on appeal before the state supreme court.

Galvin, 52, has been a regular presence at the Alaska Legislature in recent years as part of the advocacy group Great Alaska Schools, drawing attention to issues such as school funding.

Young has already filed for re-election.

Democrat Dimitri Shein has also filed as a candidate, according to the state Division of Elections website.

 

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