JUNEAU — Everything is on the table for budget cuts, members of the Senate majority caucus said Jan. 20, but the lawmakers will avoid introducing new taxes or encroaching on Alaskans’ Permanent Fund Dividends. On the first day of the 29th Legislature, Sens. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage; Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks; John Coghill, R-Fairbanks; Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River; Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla; and Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, announced the Republican-led majority’s priorities, including their opinions on the state of Alaska’s budget.
Bering Sea halibut bycatch reforms are still in the works, but the U.S. Department of Commerce has recommended a stopgap measure on behalf of the small boat fishermen most injured by sinking allocations. The U.S. Department of Commerce has responded to the letter sent Dec. 18, 2014, by the six Alaskan members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council asking for an emergency 33 percent reduction in Bering Sea halibut bycatch limits.
The first skirmish — some say it may be the main battle — in the state’s effort explore the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge played out in U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason’s courtroom in Anchorage Jan. 20. The issue before Gleason is whether the U.S. Department of the Interior should accept an application for a limited winter exploration program in a part of the coastal plain set aside for study of its oil and gas potential.