News Briefs


Valdez Star photo

Sharon Lawrence was busy setting up a TV Monday, replacing a faulty unit that is used for public showings of legislative sessions and also used to allow Alaskans to see the action in Juneau when they address lawmakers and give public testimony.

LIO is open

The Legislative Information Office (LIO) in Valdez is open during regular business hours at the State Building on Meals Ave.

Sharon Lawrence, a long-time staffer of the office, says the Valdez LIO is maintaining it's services and regular hours despite drastic budget cuts statewide that have resulted in reduced services in other state-run departments.

In addition to providing up-to-date information on actions of the Legislature and accurate Bill tracking, the LIO can help constituents contact elected officials, facilitate giving public testimony before lawmakers in Juneau and other important functions.

The office also provides services relating to applying for the Permanent Fund Dividend, including verifying birth certificates and passports for first-time applicants.

Good deeds

Alaska likes to recognize its volunteers, and Donna Walker, Alaska's first lady, opened nominations for the " First Lady's Volunteer of the Year Awards"

Bella Hammond, wife of the late Gov. Jay Hammond, began the awards in 1975.

"The Awards recognize Alaskan volunteers who have displayed an extraordinary personal commitment to volunteer service, and have made a major impact on their community or state," the governor's office said Monday in a press release.

Nominations will be accepted through close of business on March 6. They may be submitted online at .

Recipients will be announced in late May.

Budget request

(AP) Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is requesting about $110 million in additional spending for the current year.

The request, from Walker's budget office, includes state and federal dollars.

One of the biggest costs is for Medicaid provider payments, stemming from problems that state had with its payment system. The budget office says system problems have been fixed but the state health department is playing catch-up in making payments.

Additional funding is sought for such things as higher state contributions for health insurance; higher-than-expected health costs in the corrections system; and a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over cleanup of old wells.

There is a request, too, to bolster the state's disaster relief fund.

Going to pot

(AP) Everyone's had a bad conference call experience when someone who dialed in puts the call on hold, and loud hold music makes it impossible for the call to continue.

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board had a bit of that and a sound of a different sort during its meeting Thursday.

Someone who had dialed in to the meeting in Juneau flushed a toilet.

About 40 people were on the line, including enforcement officer James Hoelscher from Anchorage.

During his report, muffled noises were heard in the background and then the very distinct sound of a toilet flushing.

Board member Mark Springer stopped the meeting and admonished the unknown flusher as being rude.

Springer asked whoever was walking around with a cellphone in their pocket, and who had flushed the toilet, to mute their phone.

Taku for free

(AP) The state of Alaska trying to unload a 350-foot ferry it no longer needs.

The state transportation department is offering the Taku at no cost to local governments or other state agencies in Alaska that might want it for a public purpose. Statements of interest are due Feb. 21.

If there's no interest, department spokeswoman Meadow Bailey says there will be a public sale.

Bailey there's no dollar figure attached to the Taku yet. If there's a sale, Bailey says there may be a minimum bid as part of that process, but that remains to be worked out.

The department, like other state agencies, has faced cuts in recent years amid a multibillion-dollar state budget deficit.

Bailey says other ships have been laid up to save money.

Photo courtesy State of Alaska

First lady Donna Walker


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