Naomi Klouda

Committee recommends sanction for Eastman over ethics violation

The House Subcommittee on Ethics is recommending censure of sanction for Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, after concluding he violated Alaska law by disclosing the existence of a complaint filed against a fellow legislator.

The committee, which includes members of the public, Eastman and House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, recommended he be removed from the committee for the remainder of the current legislative session in a decision released Jan. 18.

Eastman told the Associated Press he intends to seek a formal hearing before the committee.

Districts try to trim overhead as enrollment, budgets decline

On Kodiak Island, eight village schools now share a single principal.

Cutting principal positions from the schools lowered administrative costs for the Kodiak Island Borough School District according to Superintendent Larry LeDoux.

Last year, the district of 2,420 students, spread out hundreds of miles from Akhiok on the southern end to Ouzinkie in the north, lost $1.9 million in its operating budget. Cuts came in part from a 25 percent state budget cut that formerly shared new construction costs between the state and local boroughs that bonded for them.

Young tries again with legislative fix to marijuana conflict

Rep. Don Young teamed up with California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee on Jan. 11 to introduce one of the first measures of the year meant to protect states’ legal marijuana laws in the wake of the recent federal shakeup to the industry.

House Resolution 4779 by Young and Lee, dubbed the REFER Act, seeks to provide certainty to financial institutions, patients, entrepreneurs, and other individuals by restricting federal funds regarding marijuana enforcement, he said.

Rubenstein wants agreement with ex-wife Rogoff kept out of court

Former Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff’s attorney asked a federal bankruptcy court on Jan. 9 to hold off granting access to certain bank documents until attorneys for her billionaire ex-husband David Rubenstein can review them.

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Gary Spraker set a hearing for 9 a.m. Jan. 18 at the Historic Alaska Federal Court building to sort out motions on what should be kept out of public records in the prominent court case.

Walmart deal makes for year-round processing jobs in Anchorage

Copper River Seafoods highlighted its emerging role as a mainstay in the Alaska economy in a short ceremony Jan. 8 that celebrated selling 250,000 pounds of fish per year to Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Even in winter, the plant on the shores of Ship Creek is filled with 100 employees cutting frozen fillets into portions that go out the door destined for plates in Alaska and the Lower 48.

About 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of sockeye and kita, or chum salmon, per week continue to be processed throughout the winter, according Copper River Seafoods CEO Scott Blake.

Senate Education chairman wants budget by April 1

April 1 would become a new self-imposed deadline for the Alaska Legislature to pass the education budget if a bill pre-filed by Sen. Gary Stevens becomes law.

School districts may favor such an idea after three years of not knowing their budgets until well after their school years ended. State law requires layoff notices in two tiers — one for tenured and one for regular teachers — prior to the end of the school year, which is generally the third week of May.

King Career Center to transform into high school if board approves

A new technical vocational high school planned for Anchorage could involve hundreds of new partnership opportunities for local businesses to help shape an emerging workforce.

Plans for the King Career Center, to be expanded and renamed the Martin Luther King Jr. Technical High School, are set to launch in August if approved Jan. 22 by the Anchorage School Board.

The move could give businesses a greater investment in increasing Alaska’s high school graduation rates. Currently, Anchorage is at 81.4 percent, up from 2016’s 79.7 percent.

Marijuana board chair explains resignation after change in US policy

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board will still consider license applications at its next meeting but could be one member short after the Jan. 4 resignation of chairman and Soldotna Chief of Police Peter Mlynarik.

The Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, or AMCO, will continue to process license applications for new cannabis businesses, according to a release from the agency issued Friday morning.

US Attorney: No change to enforcement priorities after Sessions’ decision

Alaska’s U.S. Attorney and state marijuana regulators vowed to continue business as usual after Attorney General Jeff Sessions changed the previous administration’s enforcement position on Jan. 4.

Sessions rescinded the “Cole Memo” written in 2013 that established a federal policy of non-interference in marijuana operations legalized at the state level as long as federal priorities were followed such as keeping drugs out of the hands of minors and protecting against involvement by criminal elements.

Marijuana board issues consumer alert amid testing issues

Testing inconsistencies in marijuana show it may be anyone’s guess just how much THC comes in those edibles and joints.

The information prompted the Marijuana Control Board to hold a quickly-scheduled telephonic meeting Jan. 2 to figure out whether to shut down the industry until testing for THC can be more consistent or to issue a public consumer alert.

The board voted unanimously to put out the public notice, which warns consumers about a dangerous mold and inconsistent THC levels in products.

Extension keeps networks on GCI, talks continue over rate hikes

Testy negotiations continue over cost increases between GCI and the owners of local network affiliates but a contract extension will keep the programming on at least through January.

“GCI has negotiated a contract extension so that the folks at Vision won’t turn off on ABC and CW tonight,” GCI said in an announcement to customers New Year’s Eve.

Without the contract extensions ABC and CW would have been removed from GCI service statewide on Jan. 1; the Fox contract was set to expire Jan. 15.

Entrepreneur turns off millennial path of college or bust

Joseph Lurtsema’s entrepreneurial success began at age 19 when he parlayed his knowledge of peaks in the Chugach Mountains into a tourism gig.

At the end of taking international or Lower 48 visitors on a personalized hike up places such as Wolverine or Flattop, he drove them downtown to a day’s finish over hotdogs from a favorite street vendor.

That business, from 2013-26, filled summers between semesters. The millennial never had to take a paycheck from a traditional boss. Also, contrary to the stereotype, didn’t live in his parents’ basement.

Health care cost transparency rules gain advocates

Officials say they’ve seen benefits of a health care cost transparency ordinance passed by the Anchorage Assembly last February, and now Ketchikan is exploring a similar measure to receive price tags for care.

At its Dec. 21 meeting, the Ketchikan City Council heard from PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, its main local provider, on questions of price transparency.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Onsite consumption decision delayed; voters reject bans

The advocates of allowing onsite cannabis consumption gained some ground this year, but no final decision was made.

After running out of time in its two-day meeting in Anchorage Nov. 14-15, the Marijuana Control Board postponed action on the issue until next April.

In the closing minutes of the meeting at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center, board member Loren Jones made a motion to postpone the previously scheduled onsite consumption vote.

Capstone brings telemedicine Downtown

A health clinic in downtown Anchorage, at the heart of the 5th Avenue Mall, may seem an unlikely sight at first glance amid the Christmas tinsel.

Near the giant JC Penney department store, Capstone Express is right where it’s needed most, said Dr. Wade Erickson, the doctor who opened it.

Downtown is filled with people working in offices, shops and restaurants, or living in condos, homes or mixed-use developments. Not to mention the thousands of tourists who pack the streets in the summer.

But there is no health clinic to serve them in a pinch.

YEAR IN REVIEW: SBA chief hits Alaska, entrepreneurship ecosystem blooms

Alaska’s small businesses gained a boost during the July visit of a top official from the President Trump administration, head of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon.

Mandate repealed, but insurance policies to take ‘HIT’ in 2018

Just weeks before a new 2.6 percent tax is to be levied against businesses and individuals, the Alaska Chamber says there’s not a moment to lose in convincing Congress it’s a bad idea.

Known as the Health Insurance Tax, HIT, or officially as the “health insurance provider fee,” the tax will be collected from Alaska’s 69,000 small businesses that employ about 141,000 private sector workers, according to the Chamber’s numbers.

Judge OK’s counsel to probe Rogoff finances

A federal judge ruled Dec. 15 that the public trustee in Alice Rogoff’s Alaska Dispatch News bankruptcy case may hire a Seattle legal firm with expertise in recovering assets and move ahead with a probe into Rogoff’s finances.

U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court Alaska Division Judge Gary Spraker didn’t buy into an argument by Rogoff’s attorney that such a move would be a wasted expense.

On first visit to state, UPS chief touts Alaska role in Asia trade route

UPS International President Jim Barber told an Anchorage group the right timing for his first trip to Alaska had come for a number of reasons, including the hub’s expanding importance in connecting to China and Asian-Pacific communities.

Barber, the head of the United Parcel Service International, spoke Dec. 8 before the Alaska World Affairs Council at the 49th State Brewing Co.

RCA outlines limits of authority over broadband in report

Whether there should be rules allowing the Regulatory Commission of Alaska more authority over telecoms’ broadband service was one of the basic questions of a report sent to Legislature on Dec. 1.

The RCA’s “Broadband Report to the Alaska Legislature,” a 29-page document, was sent to members of the House and Senate Finance committees and the Legislative Finance Division and posted to the agency website.


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