Naomi Klouda

Anchorage Assembly cuts fee in move to boost farmers’ markets

The Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance May 23 that waives the $260 permit fee for cottage food vendors and refunds those permit fees already paid for 2017.

That’s good news for jam purveyors, people who hawk chutney at farmers’ markets and others involved in food preparation that doesn’t involve a higher level imposed by city code.

It’s also good news for consumers.

Premera, state await waiver decision from federal government

Hoping to clamp a ceiling on Alaska’s already high insurance rates, state officials are keeping an eye on Washington, D.C., for two developments.

One is an application for a federal waiver that would replace the state’s one-year funding of $55 million in 2017 as a reinsurance program to halt a series of steep premium increases in the individual market.

The Alaska Division of Insurance applied to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the 1332 waiver in January, but has not yet heard back from the federal agency.

Ridesharing on the way but not without municipal complaints

An injection of employment opportunities for about 100 people as Uber or Lyft drivers and more options for riders should begin in time for the tourism season.

House Bill 132 passed 35-5 in the House after a similar bill, Senate Bill 14, unanimously passed the Senate. Alaska will be the last state in the country to authorize transportation network companies, or TNCs.

Record Copper River king prices celebrated at annual seafood event

Restaurants from Seattle to New York City paid about $50 per pound — a new record — for the Copper River king salmon sold direct from Cordova fishermen on May 19.

A representative 45-pound Copper River king was the royal guest at a public seafood event celebrating spring’s famous run in Alaska on May 19.

About 100 people turned out for a five-star restaurant sampling as part of the festivities featuring the king on square white paper plates.

Marijuana board will revisit onsite consumption at July meeting

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board will discuss three options for onsite consumption proposed by board members at its next meeting July 11-14 in Fairbanks.

• Scenario 1: You walk into an establishment where it’s okay to smoke marijuana. There are no pool tables, no dart games, no televisions. Just couches or chairs and coffee tables for a social ambiance. “This space is to try marijuana or a marijuana product and then to leave,” according to board member Loren Jones’ proposal.

Despite gov’s signature on Real ID bill, JBER issues July 10 deadline

Alaskans traveling to domestic destinations by air will not be required to carry Real ID until October 2020, if a waiver is granted as expected from the Department of Homeland Security following Gov. Bill Walker’s May 19 signature on a bill to bring the state into compliance with federal law.

Schools watch, wait as state misses budget deadline

Alaska’s school districts are in a quandary: all districts must by law give layoff notices to teachers before the Legislature lets them know whether or not the proposed $69 million in education cuts hold for fiscal year 2018 that starts July 1.

One of the key problems highlights deadlines that must be met by state statute. Teachers are to be notified of layoffs by May 15 if they are non-tenured. For tenured teachers, notice must be given by the last day of school.

Like ‘80s recession, net migration turns negative

More than 20,000 people left Alaska than moved in over the past four years in what state economists are noting as a consistent negative trend in migration that likely will continue into the next year.

Alaska typically gains 40,000 to 50,000 people per year from “in-migration,” said demographer Eddie Hunsinger. The state also loses about that many in most years.

“The numbers cancel one another, and growth comes with natural increases (births),” Hunsinger said.

Arctic Council members tout cooperation as US hands off chair

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assured Arctic leaders from around the globe gathered in Fairbanks May 11 that the United States is committed to advancing the work of the Arctic Council into the future but as yet, President Donald Trump hasn’t established a policy on how to deal with climate change.

Consumer revenue keeps dropping as GCI reports 1Q results

General Communication Inc. took in $228 million in its first quarter of 2017, but a decline of nearly $7 million in consumer revenue and a $46.5 million accounting writedown for income taxes led it to post a $55.2 million net loss for the period.

In the first quarter of 2017, GCI’s revenue from consumers fell to $107 million from $113.7 million in the same period for 2016. But those losses were somewhat offset by nearly $4 million in additional business revenue for the same time period.

Unlikely pair taking Alaska hospitality to next level

Partners Jason Motyka and David McCarthy are changing what it means to pass on Alaskan hospitality one plate at a time.

As what they call the “third generation” of Alaska restaurant owners, they’ve formed partnerships with lettuce growers, fishermen and meat producers. They helped a restaurant down the street — a potential competitor — just as in the old Alaska when neighbors helped neighbors.

And they incorporate unique stories of the frontier to help customers walk away in understanding of what they hope is a deeper experience.

Murkowski: Spending bill funds ‘Alaska priorities’

The U.S. Senate passed an omnibus appropriations bill May 4 in a vote of 79-18 that funds major Alaska programs for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 — a save from the chopping block for threatened line items such as Essential Air Service, the Denali Commission and energy assistance grants.

The legislation, now on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk, prevents a feared and much-discussed possible government shutdown. But that was never an option in her mind, said Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a May 4 morning press conference with the Alaska media.

Northern Edge exercise takes to Alaska skies, seas

Alaskans looking to the skies this week will witness military jets acting out a war scenario in rare training opportunities meant to sharpen tactical combat skills.

The Exercise Northern Edge May 1-12 includes an exercise that pits blue team against red team and involves about 6,000 U.S. military personnel. The combat zone is above central Alaska ranges and the Gulf of Alaska.

Merger creates largest real estate firm in state

Dar and Ed Walden, co-owners of the Anchorage-based Dar Walden Team at Keller Williams Realty-Alaska Group, announced their acquisition of Fairbanks-based independent brokerage Madden Real Estate on April 25.

The move positions Dar Walden to rank as one of the highest producing realtors in the state, according to rankings in Real Trends and in the Wall Street Journal.

“This places us close to 800 sales (annually), assuming we keep the same pace as last year,” Dar Walden said. “Then we will be the No. 1 team in Alaska covering a broad area from Fairbanks to Kenai.”

Bills aimed at conflicts stall out

Two bills aimed at potential legislative conflicts of interest are stranded or buried in the legislative heap of last minute work hurtling toward the May 17 deadline for the end of the 2017 session.

Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, introduced Senate Bill 5 to close a loophole that currently allows lobbyists to donate to legislators outside their districts.

Entrepreneurs awarded at UA competition

Congressional budget cuts mean fewer federal funds will be flowing to Alaska projects, but a 30 percent tax incentive for private enterprise on infrastructure investments lends a potential ace for rural Alaska.

That’s one of the concepts behind a winning idea at the 2017 Alaska Business Plan Competition April 21 at the Beartooth Theatre hosted by the University of Alaska Anchorage Business Enterprise Institute.

First blood test for breast cancer detection reaches Alaska

Blood tests let patients know if they have a vitamin B deficiency. Blood testing provides windows into whether a person has diabetes. But until recently, no blood test could tell if a person has breast cancer.

New technology available for the first time in Alaska should help ease anxiety for women tested for breast cancer by providing clearer answers during cancer screening. Dr. Karen Barbosa at Alaska Breast Care Specialists on the Alaska Regional Hospital campus is the first in the state to offer the protein-based blood test for detecting breast cancer.

Minerals prices rebounding, but jobs still off from 2012 highs

Alaska saw a dip in mining jobs during 2016, numbers attributed to losses in the oil patch as well as hard rock mines when commodities prices took a dive.

Employment numbers are tallied in different ways by various agencies. Alaska Department of Labor statistics show Alaska went from 17,400 mining jobs in 2015 to 14,200 jobs in 2016.

That number lumped in petroleum jobs, said Alaska Economist Neal Fried, with “mom and pop” placer mines and large entities such as Usibelli coal.

Education funding in focus amid growing budget impasse

It’s either an education funding raffle, drawing Permanent Fund earnings or an income tax: lack of agreement on any one of these three solutions is stymying action in the Alaska Legislature this week while as yet no conference committee is named to roll up sleeves and get to work filling a $2.6 billion hole.

Education forms 44 percent of the Alaska budget between K-12’s $1.3 billion need and the University of Alaska system’s $325 million allocation. That’s the elephant stuck in a keyhole, according to legislators working through three possible solutions under consideration.

Education officials alarmed by proposed Senate budget cuts

Legislators at work reconciling budget differences between the House and Senate are hashing out a 5 percent cut across all 53 school districts in the state as a way to slash $69 million from the budget deficit.

Several districts’ officials traveled to Juneau this week to make appeals: A 5 percent cut would turn education upside down, they told legislators.

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