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

News Briefs


January 10, 2018

Steve Revis photo

The bald eagle often referred to as "Carlos" eyed customers at Acres Kwik Trip Monday from a favorite perch on the sign above the building.


(AP) Alaska state Sen. Mike Dunleavy says he will resign his seat to focus on running for governor this year.

Dunleavy, a Republican, says the best way for him to advocate for his constituents' values is to devote his full time and attention to ensuring that a new governor is elected.

A Dunleavy campaign spokeswoman says the resignation will be effective Jan. 15.

Dunleavy was elected to the Senate in 2012.

He left the Republican-led Senate majority last year over concerns that more had not been cut from the budget. He also didn't support a proposed change to how Alaska Permanent Fund dividends are distributed.

Dunleavy's departure means the House and Senate both will have to fill vacancies.

Democratic state Rep. Dean Westlake resigned last month amid accusations of inappropriate behavior.

Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, who represents Valdez in the Alaska House told KTVA-TV that he intends to apply for the vacancy.

Cable news

(AP) Alaska cable and internet provider GCI has reached a contract extension that will keep ABC, CW and Fox on its cable packages at least through January.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday that the extension comes as GCI and the owners of local network affiliates continue to negotiate cost increases.

ABC and CW would've been removed from GCI service statewide on Jan. 1 without the extension. Fox would've been removed on Jan. 15.

Fox programming includes the upcoming National Football League playoffs.

GCI Spokeswoman Heather Handyside says the provider offers 450 channels in Anchorage and negotiates new contracts for each of them. Cost increases on contracts are usually between 5 percent and 20 percent, but GCI says the ABC, CW and Fox affiliate owners requested a 300 percent increase.

Jobs outlook

(AP) The state labor department expects continued job losses in Alaska this year but at a more moderate level than earlier in the recession.

Economist Karinne Wiebold tells The Associated Press it appears the depth of the recession is diminishing.

Wiebold writes in a new labor department report that total employment is forecast to decline by 0.5 percent this year, compared to declines of 1.1 percent last year and 1.9 percent in 2016.

She says one reason for slowing losses is that oil and gas, state government and other sectors that suffered bigger losses appear to be stabilizing at lower job levels.

The state was hit hard when oil prices began plummeting in late 2014, blowing a massive hole in a state budget that has been heavily reliant on oil revenues.

Pot tax dips

(AP) The state of Alaska reported a dip in tax collections from legal marijuana businesses in November.

The state says it collected just over $870,000 in marijuana tax revenue in November, down from about $920,000 in October.

Kelly Mazzei is the excise tax supervisor with the state Department of Revenue. She says the decline could be related to market conditions or growing cycles, though the state is not yet sure what is behind it.

The state began collecting marijuana taxes in October 2016.

The tax is imposed when marijuana is sold or transferred from a marijuana cultivation facility to a retail pot shop or marijuana product manufacturing facility.

State statistics show that tax revenue fell between December 2016 and January 2017 but had steadily increased through October.

Drug prosecutor

(AP) Gov. Bill Walker's budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 calls for adding a statewide drug prosecutor in Alaska.

The Ketchikan Daily news reported Friday that the governor's office says the position is part of the Public Safety Action Plan, which was created to address the state's rise in crime and opioid use.

John Skidmore, director of the criminal division of the Alaska Department of Law, said the job would allow the state to focus more energy on cracking down on the larger, wide-scale drug trafficking cases across the state.

Skidmore says it makes sense for one person to have the intelligence of multiple law enforcement agencies because the flow of narcotics doesn't impact just one community.

He says the position would also alleviate the large caseload some prosecutors have.

Underage vows

(AP) An Alaska lawmaker is seeking to change the state law that allows a person as young as 14 to marry.

The Ketchikan Daily news reports state Sen. Berta Gardner is planning to introduce legislation to up the legal age of marriage to 18 in Alaska.

The Democratic senator's legislation would also allow emancipated minors above the age of 16 to marry.

Under current state law, a person between the age of 14 and 18 can marry with permission from a superior court judge. According to the state law, the judge may grant permission if the "marriage is in the best interest of the minor."

According to an Alaska Vital Statistics report, four marriage licenses were issued to 14-year-old children between 2006 and 2015.

Bail correction

Steve Revis photo

A feral rabbit enjoying a meal of buried flower roots inside a pot at the Downtown B & B.

(AP) Alaska is starting the new year with a change in the way the state handles criminal bail.

The Juneau Empire reported people charged with a crime will no longer have to pay money to get out of jail before their trial – but a correction was later issued stating that bail could still be imposed on some defendants.

Starting Jan. 1, the state will judge each individual under a point-based system that considers how likely they are to show up to court appearances or commit a new crime.

Nancy Meade, general counsel of the Alaska Court System to the assembled attorneys, says the change means more people will be out of jail with supervision.

It also means the state won't have to pay for their jail time. The individuals who qualify will also be allowed to work.


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