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Copyright vEsti24
Feb 24 2015
Rep. Stutes Wary of Funding Private School Vouchers PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 24 February 2015
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Jay Barrett/KMXT
    Yesterday (Monday) morning in the Alaska State House, a resolution was passed seeking to designate a week in January as "Alaska School Choice Week," but it turned into a floor debate over public schools and vouchers to use public money to pay for private schools.
    The resolution referenced National School Choice Week, which has been connected with a nationwide, corporate-backed, anti-union movement challenging public schools.
    Republican Rep. Lynn Gattis, the resolution's sponsor, said the measure is about empowering parents, but Democratic Rep. Les Gara, saying there are already plenty of choices for education, suggested the intent was to have lawmakers show support for private school vouchers. 
    That was also the concern of Republican Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak.
    "It could obligate public funds for voucher schools. And in the district I represent, I don't think it's prudent. If it had been a little more clear I certainly would have supported it. I'm all for education. It's important. Our kids are our future, and there's no question about that. But it concerns me if we are going to publicly fund private schools."
    Stutes voted against the resolution, but said that break from voting along party lines should not get her in trouble with House leadership.
    "You know, I've had conversations with them, and they all understood it and they weren't sure which way they were going to go. You know I'm going to vote what's good for my district, first and foremost. That's kind of what I consider my job to be. is to come down here and vote what's best for the district."
     The measure passed 21-14, with Stutes the only Republican voting no. Several Democrats who caucus with the Republican majority voted yes. 
Feb 24 2015
Stevens Says Legislature Moving Forward with Legislation on Pot Legalization Day PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 24 February 2015
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Jay Barrett/KMXT
    Today (Tuesday) is Day One for legalized marijuana in Alaska. Though Alaskans have for years been allowed to have pot in their own homes for private use, now Alaskans can have it pretty much everywhere. 
    "Well, you know, first it passed by a very big vote in Kodiak. Folks wanted to see that legislation passed."
    It seems residents here and statewide might be moving faster than the state. Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens says the state legislature yet hasn't caught up with the voter initiative which unilaterally legalized the weed, so there's a lot of confusion and gray area still surrounding possession, use and especially commercialization.
    "Those details we haven't quite figured out yet. We're struggling with it. There are so many issues that deal with commercialization. Banks can't accept funds that aren't legal on a federal level. We're concerned about things kids can get a hold of, Gummi Bears and that sort of things. So there's a lot of little specific issues about commercialization. But it is definitely moving ahead on decriminalizing it."
    And until the commercialization details are worked out, there can be no pot stores or dispensaries, and it would still be ill-advised to show up at work under the influence.
    "It  doesn't change the rights of the employer to decide, to say whether you can drink on the job or whether you can use drugs on the job. That's not going to change that at all. I think it's moving ahead I think we're a little concerned about making a mistake and having to clod back at a later date."
    Not only is today the first day of legalized marijuana, Alaskans in November also voted to raise the minimum wage by one dollar effective today.
Feb 23 2015
Assembly Supports Senate's Anti-Smoking Bill PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 February 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
    The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly voted Thursday to support Alaska Senate Bill 1, which would ban smoking in most work places. The resolution was introduced by Assemblyman Aaron Griffin, who two years ago was behind the local smoking ban vote which failed.
    "Which wasn't perfect. It had it's problems at the time. Was the fact that the overwhelming evidence for public safety and public health is irrefutable. There is no question that this will save lives,” he said. “I mean it's spelled out in the resolution, really, itself that of people who die of smoking-related deaths one out of 10 are people who don't smoke. Which tells you right there, we have a problem with second hand smoke exposure."
    Griffin said he understands the arguments made by business owners about their rights, he says the health of employees trumps that.
    "While I think that we need to be cautious of property rights and the rights of business owners, sometimes the rights of employees outweigh that,” Griffin said. “And the the right of an employee to a clean and hospitable work place really is a right."
    Assemblyman Larry LeDoux agreed.
    "We're at down economic times as people have pointed out, and many people will take any job or any three jobs they can get. And we shouldn't ask people to sacrifice their lives to support their families,” LeDoux said. “It used to be if you didn't like the smoke, you could go somewhere else. I don't think people have that kind of job mobility any more."
    Assemblyman Dan Rohrer, a business owner with plenty of employees had a couple of concerns over the resolution, but they weren't enough to keep him from supporting it.
    "The reason I'm going to vote for this is because of what's in Senate Bill 1. And there's three things I want to point out. First, it's an act that prohibits smoking in certain places, not a hundred percent of work places. So they have fixed that from where we've been at in years past. Additionally it specifically refers to enclosed work places, and so the ability to enforce this law for example  on somebody working on a construction job site where their building a house together with some people and one of them chooses to smoke and it's agreed to with the other individuals – that's not prohibited under this,” Rohrer said. “And lastly, the devil's always in the details on definitions, but in definitions it refers to smoking and it defines smoking, which seems counter intuitive, but one of the things they have added is 'plant product intended for inhalation,' and so for me that addresses a concern that I have in our community and throughout our state, in regards to second-hand marijuana smoke."
    The resolution passed the assembly unanimously.
Feb 23 2015
Board of Fish Faces Full Agenda in Sitka PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 February 2015
Robert Woolsey/KCAW
    The Alaska State Board of Fisheries opened a 10-day meeting in Sitka this (Monday) morning.
    On the agenda for the board are 107 proposals for changes in management to Southeast Alaska’s herring, salmon, and groundfish fisheries.
    There are 16 proposals alone on Sitka Sound herring, from a variety of concerned stakeholders, including the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and commercial herring seiners.
    There are also proposals this year to allow the harvest of black cod in pots in state waters. Previously, all fishing for black cod has been done using gear called a longline, which has individual hooks. The pot proposal is an effort to combat predation by sperm whales on longline gear.
    There are also proposals concerning the harvest of lingcod and rockfish, including a proposal to require sport fishermen to release some species of bottomfish only after first returning them to deep water.
    The Board of Fish does not tackle each of the 107 proposals individually. Instead, a stakeholder group called the “Committee of the Whole” consolidates similar proposals. Committee work is expected to take up at least three mornings this week.
    The board is scheduled to meet in Sitka through March 3.
Feb 23 2015
New Washington Member Appointed to NPFMC PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 February 2015
Shady Grove Oliver/KBBI
    Kenneth Down has been appointed as the newest member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
    That’s according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which announced his appointment Friday.
    Down is the president and CEO of Blue North, a natural resources development company based in Washington State with an focus on longlining for Pacific cod.
    He was formerly the executive director of the Freezer Longline Coalition. 
    There are eight regional fishery councils designated under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    The Secretary of Commerce is responsible for appointing about a third of new council members from a list of governor’s nominees compiled by NOAA Fisheries.
    Down’s term runs through August 10th, 2017. 
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