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Latest from the Alaska Legislature

Apr 17, 2015 -- 3:31pm
- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - 2:40 p.m.
Multi-year work to reinforce and renovate the aging state Capitol is scheduled to begin again around month's end. Pam Varni, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, says if there's a special session, her agency would work with the contractor on noise issues and work around session times. Varni said the contractor is scheduled to start bringing equipment on April 30 or May 1. She also said by email that many legislators' cars are scheduled to be on Tuesday's cross-Gulf ferry. Gov. Bill Walker hinted at a special session if legislators don't act on Medicaid expansion before they adjourn. He said he'd be inclined to have a special session right after the regular session if one is held but would want to discuss that with legislative leaders.
 
11:05 a.m.
The Alaska Senate has passed legislation to levy a nearly 1-cent-per-gallon surcharge on refined fuels distributed in the state to help fund an account used for the cleanup of contaminated sites, non-emergency spill response and other activities. Friday's vote was 13-7. Similar legislation, with a 1-cent surcharge, previously narrowly passed the House. The House will have to decide whether to agree with the Senate changes. Current funding includes a 4-cent surcharge on each taxable barrel of oil produced in Alaska and fines, settlements or penalties recovered from those financially responsible for spills. But the state Department of Environmental Conservation says declining oil production has impacted the account. The proposed capital budget package includes $800,000 to help cover a shortfall this year. The surcharge is intended to help cover future costs. 
 
10:05 a.m.
Lawmakers are vetting the governor's nominee for the state board of education.The House Education Committee questioned John Harmon on education issues during a Friday hearing. Members forwarded his name for consideration in a joint session of the Legislature, which is planned for Sunday. Harmon is the principal of Anchorage's Lumen Christi High School, a private catholic school. Gov. Bill Walker appointed him to the board after his prior appointee withdrew from consideration. Harmon said he is generally not a fan of federal mandates, and opposed curriculum pushed by the National Catholic Educational Association at Lumen Christi. Harmon also said he sees the value of assessing student progress, but does not support mandating certain tests. The National Education Association-Alaska has opposed Harmon's nomination.
 
 
9:03 a.m. 
Gov. Bill Walker says he has revoked his proclamation calling the House and Senate into a joint session to consider his appointments Friday. The House and Senate planned to buck that proclamation, anyway; the Senate voted Thursday to accept the House's invitation to take up the confirmation of Walker's appointments on Sunday. Walker said the cancellation of joint session originally scheduled for Friday, combined with a February legal memo requested by the Senate president's office on what happens if the Legislature doesn't meet to take up appointments, prompted him to issue the proclamation. This, despite leadership telling him they would consider the nominations. Walker said the House speaker and Senate president gave him their word Friday that each of his nominees would get a vote. He says he trusts them.
 

Trial begins in case of 2 troopers killed in Tanana

Apr 17, 2015 -- 3:15pm
- NENANA, Alaska (AP) - The trial of 59-year-old Arvin Kangas opened with accounts of the fatal shooting of two Alaska State Troopers in the remote Yukon River village of Tanana. The Fairbanks News-Miner reports that the trial began Thursday. Kangas is accused of tampering with evidence by unholstering and moving the troopers' guns after their deaths and disposing of marijuana plants. Kangas' 21-year-old son, Nathanial Kangas, is awaiting trial on murder charges for the shooting of trooper Gabe Rich and Sgt. Scott Johnson. The assistant attorney general said the troopers were planning to arrest the elder Kangas for threatening a public safety officer. Arvin Kangas' wife testified she was in a separate room during the shootings and feared being shot herself. She said she later saw Arvin Kangas wearing a glove and holding a trooper's handgun.

UAF chancellor announces summer retirement plans

Apr 17, 2015 -- 3:00pm
- FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers says he plans to retire at the end of August. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper reports Rogers cites a stress on his health caused in part by severe budget cuts the university is facing as the state struggles with multibillion-dollar deficit. Rogers, who announced his retirement Thursday, earlier voiced his interest in becoming president of the University of Alaska system. Current president Pat Gamble is retiring later this year. The 64-year-old Rogers is a former state legislator who became acting chancellor in April 2008 and became chancellor outright in May 2009. Gamble says he is saddened by Rogers' departure. He says Rogers is a friend and one of his right-hand people in the UA system.

University of Alaska president retirement date extended

Apr 16, 2015 -- 12:30pm
- ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - University of Alaska president Pat Gamble is extending his resignation date for a few months so that candidates for his position can be properly vetted by the Board of Regents. Anchorage television station KTVA reports Gamble originally planned to step down in June when he announced his retirement late last year. Board of Regents chair Jo Heckman says the board's original mid-May deadline was not enough time for selecting the next UA president. Heckman first made the announcement in Bethel at a recent board meeting. The retirement date extension was announced in a UA press release. Officials say Gamble also will be able to help the university with financial challenges as the state deals with a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall.

Latest from the Alaska Legislature

Apr 16, 2015 -- 12:15pm
- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - 11:40 a.m.  Alaska's House and Senate plan to meet in joint session Sunday to take up Gov. Bill Walker's appointments, seeking to buck Walker on the issue.  Walker signed an executive proclamation Wednesday, calling lawmakers into joint session Friday to take up his new Cabinet-level appointments and appointments to boards and commissions. The Legislature originally planned to take up confirmations Friday, but canceled the meeting this week.  Walker said the cancellation combined with a February legal memo requested by the Senate president's office on what happens if the Legislature doesn't meet to take up appointments prompted his action. House Speaker Mike Chenault said he told Walker he intended to take up confirmations before the Legislature's scheduled end Sunday. The Senate voted 14-5 Thursday to accept the House invitation to take up confirmations Sunday.
 
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11:25 a.m. Gov. Bill Walker on Thursday hinted at a special session if legislators do not act on Medicaid expansion before the session's scheduled end on Sunday. Walker told reporters that if the issue is not addressed by Sunday and legislators don't extend their time in session, "we'll put more time on the clock." Based on where things are now, he said, he would want a special session. Walker has called Medicaid expansion a must-have but some members of the Republican-led House and Senate majorities say they still have concerns. Walker last month introduced legislation to expand Medicaid and make changes aimed at reducing and containing costs within the program. Bills dealing solely with reforms also are pending. 

Coast Guard says remains of missing Alaska pilot found

Apr 16, 2015 -- 12:00pm
- ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Searchers have found the remains of the pilot of a plane that went missing in Alaska's Prince William Sound. The Coast Guard says the man's remains were recovered after being found Wednesday evening. Responders say the wreckage of the man's Cessna 180 were partially submerged off the coast of Culross Island. Anchorage television station KTUU reports the pilot's family identified him as 53-year-old Dale Carlson of Wasilla. The search was launched after the pilot reported engine trouble Tuesday afternoon near Perry Island, 60 miles southwest of Valdez. The Coast Guard says the pilot stated he might have to set the plane down. The Coast Guard says searchers included Alaska State Troopers and the National Guard. The Coast Guard says responders searched for 27 hours in rough weather.
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