Environmental coalition sues Interior over King Cove road deal

An Alaska law firm is leading local and national environmental groups in a lawsuit to stop a land transfer approved by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that would allow for a road to be built through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Onerous health insurance taxes put off by Jan. 22 spending bill

The immigration stalemate that temporarily caused a government shutdown over a late January weekend was ended with a three-week funding bill that included a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and postponed instituting two problematic health insurance taxes.

CHIP, referred to as the Denali Kid Care program in Alaska, covers 9 million American children including 17,700 Alaskans. The extension is the longest one granted to the program, which had its funding expire last September, since CHIP was created in 1997.

Movers and Shakers for Feb. 4

Board hears concerns about crimes targeting cannabis industry

An uptick in burglaries targeting marijuana businesses has officials concerned, but no one seems to be tracking thefts and break-ins at Alaska’s cannabis businesses to get an idea on how safely the cash-only industry is faring.

According to James Hoelscher, the chief enforcement officer at the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, or AMCO, the number of theft-related hits targeting these businesses is on the rise.

Marijuana board carries on with new member after federal shift

The Marijuana Control Board approved more than 22 new business licenses at its Jan. 24-26 meeting in Juneau, and continued to wade through public safety and new federal scrutiny on the state’s legal marijuana commerce.

The board also voted in a new chair after former chair and Soldotna Chief of Police Peter Mlynarik resigned Jan. 4.

Former Vice Chair Mark Springer of Bethel, who has the seat designated for rural Alaska, was voted unanimously as the new chairman, while Brandon Emmett, who holds one of two industry seats, was named vice chair.

AJOC EDITORIAL: Parish flunks out on oil taxes

Nobody could blame Rep. Justin Parish for loving the sound of his own voice.

The problem is that everything that comes out of the Juneau Democrat’s mouth regarding oil taxes following his baritone “Madam Chair” reveals a depth of knowledge that is shallower than a contact lens case.

Parish was on full, cringe-worthy display at a couple recent hearings of the House Resources Committee, where co-chair Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, is forcing oil industry representatives to hump to Juneau yet again for more hearings on another oil tax bill that’s going nowhere.

FISH FACTOR: US-Canadian impasse a first for halibut allocations

As expected, catches of Pacific halibut will decrease for this year, and likely into the foreseeable future.

Following an increase in catches last year for the first time in several decades, the International Pacific Halibut Commission on Jan. 26 set a “suggested” coastwide catch for 2018 at 28.03 million pounds, a 10.7 percent reduction.

Alaska’s share could be 20.52 million pounds, a drop of 2.1 million pounds from 2017.

Alaska Air Group nets $1B in ’17 as Virgin integration continues

Alaska Air Group Inc. reported profits of just more than $1 billion in 2017 after its first full year owning Virgin America, but is still managing challenges associated with its purchase of the former competitor.

The Seattle-based parent company of Alaska Airlines also posted a $367 million profit for the fourth quarter of 2017, which compared to $814 million full-year 2016 and $114 fourth quarter 2016 profits.

Alaska Air Group executives announced the quarterly and year-end results in a Jan. 25 conference call with investors.

Alaska VA makes progress after taking over Choice referrals

Alaska’s 72,000 veterans will continue to receive care under a program that the state office of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs took pains to reconfigure over the past 18 months.

The Veterans Choice Program received an additional $2.1 billion in December, just weeks prior to the three-day government shutdown.

Oil tax bill gets chilly reception from industry

State Revenue Department officials say the oil production tax increase being debated in the House would not change bottom lines much at current market prices but company leaders stress it would further cement Alaska’s poor reputation in the oil and financial sectors.

Tax Division Director Ken Alper testified to the House Resources Committee Jan. 26 that the proposal to raise the minimum gross production tax from 4 percent to 7 percent would increase the state’s tax take by 54 cents per barrel at oil prices of $70 per barrel.

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