Juneau educator named 2016 Alaska Teacher of the Year

first_imgEducation | Juneau | Juneau SchoolsJuneau educator named 2016 Alaska Teacher of the YearNovember 9, 2015 by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO Share:Amy Jo MienersJuneau teacher Amy Jo Meiners has been named 2016 Alaska Teacher of the Year.Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley made the announcement Sunday at the Association of Alaska School Boards conference.Meiners works with gifted and talented students as an extended learning teacher at Auke Bay and Riverbend elementary schools.The selection process is based on a written application reviewed by a committee of educators, followed by interviews with the top ranked applicants.The state title puts her in the running to be the National Teacher of the Year to be announced in April. The national teacher of the year serves as a spokesperson for the profession who is given a paid leave of absence for one year to travel for speaking engagements and policy commissions.Share this story:last_img read more

Slideshow: Eaglecrest Downtown Rail Jam 2015

first_img 46 – Kevin rotates off the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 42 – Christian flips inverted over the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 29 – Max launches off the jump at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Max won the award for best trick. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 43 – Nano on the jump at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 27 – Charles jumps at the Downtown Rail Jam December 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 42 – Christian soars over the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) Share this story: Contestants watch as they wait their turn to jump at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec.19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 41 – Garrett jumps at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) Juneau | SportsSlideshow: Eaglecrest Downtown Rail Jam 2015December 21, 2015 by Mikko Wilson Share:Eaglecrest Ski Area hosted the first Downtown Rail Jam in Juneau’s Marine Park Saturday. Braving the cold and the wind, 23 skiers and snowboarders took to a ramp constructed with scaffolding and snow trucked down from the ski area while a crowd of about 100 spectators looked on.Participants and winners are identified by bib number and their name as listed on Eaglecrest’s sign up sheet. In most cases last names were not provided. 42 – Christian flips into an inversion at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 33 – Noah spins off the jump at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 33 – Noah spins off the jump at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 35 – Logan catches air at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 35 – Logan catches air at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 30 – Jarrett jumps at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 47 – Julian slides down the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Julian took 3rd place. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 39 – Jira jumps at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 29 – Max slides down the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Max won the award for best trick. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 36 – Rise lines up for launch at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Rise won the Grom Boy award. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 44 – Devyn catches air at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Devyn won the award for best slam. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) Contestants cheer on each other as they wait their turn to jump at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 45 – LaClair balances down the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 50 – David clears the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 40 – Payton catches air at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 29 – Max lands in a slide at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Max won the award for best trick. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 26 – Evan takes to the air at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Evan took 1st place. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 50 – David airborne at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 40 – Payton balances her way down the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Payton won the Best Girl award. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 29 – Max performs an inverted jump at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Max won the award for best trick. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 41 – Garrett jumps at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 37 – Odin skis down the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 34 – Jonah clears the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 31 – Sam Buck lands a jump clean at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. Sam took 2nd place. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 28 – Jessica catches air at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 32 – Tosh grabs his board as he slides down the edge of the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO) 38 – Bethany performs a belly slide down the box at the Downtown Rail Jam Dec. 19th. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO)last_img read more

EPA fines BP, Hilcorp for spills on the North Slope

first_imgAlaska’s Energy Desk | Energy & Mining | Environment | North SlopeEPA fines BP, Hilcorp for spills on the North SlopeJuly 15, 2016 by Rashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Juneau Share:Contaminated snow-covered tundra on April 29, 2014, from a BP Exploration Alaska spill in Prudoe Bay. The EPA fined the company $30,000 for the spill, the state of Alaska fined it an additional $100,000. (Photo courtesy ADEC)BP Exploration Alaska and Hilcorp Alaska have agreed to pay fines after spilling oil and waste on the North Slope.The Environmental Protection Agency announced the companies will pay $130,000 in federal penalties.Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/2016/07/15EPAFINES.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.According to the EPA, the Clean Water Act violations by both companies affected Arctic wetlands that support wildlife like caribou, ptarmigan and geese.EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre said the North Slope is one of the harshest environments where companies operate in Alaska. It’s also one of the most ecologically sensitive.“We know that the tundra is kind of like a big sponge and is completely overlaying water that drains off and runs to various tributaries to rivers and then rivers to the sea,” he said.Hilcorp had a breach in a production line in its Milne Point field. The leaky pipeline caused nearly 10,000 gallons of crude oil and water to spill onto about an acre of land. The company will pay $100,000 to the EPA.Piping showing oil from the BP Exploration Alaska spill on May 2, 2014, in Prudhoe Bay. (Photo by John Ebel/ADEC)BP will pay $30,000 in federal penalties for spilling 700 gallons of waste onto 33 acres of tundra and gravel pad. That spill was caused by a frozen rupture in one of the company’s lines in Prudhoe Bay.MacIntyre said spill cleanup on the North Slope can be complicated by winter weather. Hilcorp response crews had to struggle through blizzard conditions while BP workers had to remove acres of contaminated snow.“A lot of times, frankly these spills happen at the worst time of the year, when it’s the coldest, when it’s the darkest, when (it) really puts people at risk in terms of responding and trying to fix things when they spill,” MacIntyre said. “So it’s really in nobody’s interest to have anything spill.”Neither company agreed to interviews about the incidents. Both sent prepared statements.Hilcorp spokeswoman Lori Nelson said it is proud of its response to the spill and inspected other similar pipeline sections as a result of the incident. While BP spokeswoman Dawn Patience said the company has worked to strengthen safety and risk management.EPA relies on the companies to report spills. After the agency notifies a company it is considering a fine, MacIntyre says the companies can weigh-in.“They come in and negotiate with us and we end up with a final penalty,” he said.Each case is resolved differently. Sometimes the money goes to the state, sometimes to the federal government. In BP’s case, the company will pay $30,000 in penalties directly to a federal fund that is used to pay for cleanup when spills occur and the responsible party is either unknown, or refuses to pay.BP also settled its case with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation after its spill. It will pay the state $100,000.Hilcorp could still face further fines from its Milne Point spill. A spokeswoman from DEC said the state is investigating the incident and its case is still open.Both companies have reported dozens of spills in Alaska since 2014, but most of the discharges are minute amounts of fuel or oilfield chemicals.Share this story:last_img read more

Uptick in oil prices helps Alaska’s bottom line, but not much

first_imgShare this story: Alaska’s Energy Desk | Economy | Energy & Mining | North SlopeUptick in oil prices helps Alaska’s bottom line, but not muchAugust 22, 2016 by Rashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk – Juneau Share:The Trans Alaska Pipeline System, or TAPS, carries oil from Alaska’s North Slope to the rest of the state, shown here running along the Dalton Highway. Oil prices have rebounded slightly in the last few weeks, analysts say that won’t mean much for Alaska’s bottom line. (Photo by Lindsay Ohlert/Creative Commons)Oil prices were up for the third straight week last week.In Alaska, North Slope crude rose to nearly $50 a barrel by the end of the week.That’s much higher than the $40-a-barrel price the state based this year’s budget on. But, the price isn’t nearly high enough to fill the state’s massive $3.2 billion budget deficit.Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/2016/08/22OILPRICES.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Ken Alper, director of the state’s tax division, said each dollar increase in the price of oil works out to about $25-$30 million in revenue for the state. And while that’s helpful, it’s not going to balance the budget.“I don’t think we’re expecting it to move very much and once again we’re anticipating over a $3 billion dollar deficit so a few hundred extra million is certainly helpful but it still means a large shortfall for the current year,” Alper said.Alper said the rebound in prices is good for oil companies.“The big difference that happens around $46 a barrel is, that is, per our estimates, around the break even point for the major producers on the North Slope,” he said.That break even point is a big deal for the state. If oil stays at that price, the state is guaranteed a four percent tax on production. Any lower and the companies can claim credits that reduce the state’s tax revenue.But the price of oil is still half of the $102-per-barrel needed to balance the state’s budget this year.Alper said that it is technically possible oil prices could get back up to that level, but very unlikely.“It’s a small likelihood. There’s certainly a possibility. We can’t discount it. But if I had to put a number out there, I’d put it in the less than 5% category,” he said.There are several factors affecting the price of oil. A big one is that global inventories of crude oil are high and the market is oversupplied. Analysts say that isn’t likely to change soon.Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, are set to meet with other producers in September to discuss freezing production. That fueled speculation that drove prices up last week.Esa Ramasamy, is an analyst for S&P Global Platts.  He said OPEC signalling that it would discuss capping production could drive prices up in the short term, but other factors have longer lasting impacts on the market, like the forecast.“This year, they believe the winter is going to be much cooler than what it was last year,” he said.Hurricane season can also drive oil prices up as storms hit the Gulf of Mexico and halt production at rigs there. But, Ramasay said there are other factors that could pull prices down. Of those, one of the most critical is investment.As oil prices cratered, companies stopped investing. Ramasamy says there hasn’t been any measurable investment in the last two years.In Alaska, low prices have caused the state to dip into its $8 billion constitutional budget reserve to close the deficit this year.And, while more revenue from the bump in oil prices will cause the state to draw less on its savings, the problem is far from resolved.By Monday, prices had fallen by 3 percent, making it seem even less likely that they’ll rebound to budget-balancing highs anytime soon.last_img read more

Alutiiq language nest school enters first full semester

first_imgAlaska Native Arts & Culture | Arts & Culture | Education | SouthwestAlutiiq language nest school enters first full semesterAugust 4, 2017 by Kayla Desroches, KMXT-Kodiak Share:Students and teachers in classroom in the Afognak building on Near Island during pilot semester. (Photo by Kayla Desroches/KMXT)A preschool designed to immerse children in the Alutiiq language is about to enter its first full semester of classes.The Administration for Native Americans granted the Sun’aq tribe roughly $2 million dollars to establish the nest school. It wrapped up its pilot semester in May.Local artist Hanna Sholl said she enrolled two of her children in the nest school. She said her daughter became more comfortable using Alutiiq words over the period of the class.“She would use them a little bit in the nest, but then she would come home and she would have no problem telling her brothers, kita, let’s go, and asking for things. Like, she asks for juice in Alutiiq. Even still now she’ll do that.”Teacher Marya Halvorsen wants to encourage more of that kind of language use in the classroom. She said that’s a consideration moving forward on possible improvements to the program.“I think that we had some really lofty ideas about how quickly a curriculum would move along, so we have definitely revisited that and revised it to meet the needs of multiple small children, lots of moving parts,” Halvorsen said. “We have also tried to work out a way to change our focus on getting responses from them instead of them just having a receptive understanding.”As an assessment tool, they made audio recordings of the classes.Halvorsen said that in preparing for September’s reopening she’s been going over some of the tape.“I’ve been listening to that for the last day and a half and identifying my kids by voice, by screech, by squeal, and it’s occurred to me how much I miss them,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to getting them back in and hanging out with them. They’re all really cool little people. But I’m also looking forward to what we can do with an entire full year.”This coming semester will go from September through May with an expanded schedule of classes and a new, permanent office above the Alutiiq Museum.The program is currently taking applications for enrollment.Share this story:last_img read more

ASAA approves request to combine Juneau’s high school football teams

first_imgEducation | Juneau | Juneau Schools | SportsASAA approves request to combine Juneau’s high school football teamsNovember 4, 2017 by Adelyn Baxter, KTOO Share:The Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears practice at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park on Friday, July 28, 2017. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)The Alaska School Activities Association has approved a request from the Juneau School District to combine its high school football teams and cheer squads beginning next fall.The request was approved by a 4-1 vote at Thursday’s ASAA Board of Directors meeting. It allows the district to combine the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears and Thunder Mountain Falcons into one team. That means TMHS students will be able to play for JDHS while remaining enrolled at their own school.Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/2017/11/05football.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Director of Student Services Bridget Weiss said the district must wait for a decision on which conference the team will play in. The combined TMHS and JDHS student bodies will likely bump the team up a division, she said.“Once we know what conference we’re in, that will give us some information to start formulating what the season is going to look like both fiscally and logistically,” Weiss said. “And then we’ll move through the process of working with kids and families and coaches in order to put together a plan for the fall.”Weiss said the primary reasons the district made its request had to do with safety and participation concerns. The number of students signing up to play football for both Juneau teams has declined in recent years, forcing coaches to play younger, less-experienced students against teams with older and larger players.Both teams were also operating at a deficit at the beginning of the 2017 season: TMHS had a negative account balance of more than $100,000 while JDHS was short almost $6,000.The sole vote against the motion came from board representative Andrew Friske. Friske is the residential and activities principal at Mt. Edgcumbe High School in Sitka and represents Region 5, which is Juneau’s region. He said other schools in the region were concerned that Juneau’s request would leave other teams at a disadvantage.In the past, schools traveling to play Juneau teams have then taken the ferry to play Ketchikan. Changing divisions would alter that, Friske said.“Combining programs would cause them to possibly bump up into the large school division, leaving Ketchikan the only school down in Region 5. And I think that was the main reason why 10 of the schools did not support this,” he said.Executive Director of ASAA Billy Strickland said there was some concern at Thursday’s meeting that this decision could set a precedent for other Alaska schools.“Other states for quite a while have had the ability for even their larger schools to co-op in order to save costs and so forth,” Strickland said. “So while it’s precedent-setting, I believe overall the board doesn’t believe that’s a bad thing.”Strickland added that the decision means the board will have to take a look at its classification system for high school football. ASAA currently has three divisions determined by school size, but it may need to adjust that in order to balance the number of schools at each level.Weiss pointed out that of the 20 schools in the Southeast region that weighed in on the school district’s request, only three have football programs. Two of those are Juneau’s. The other is Ketchikan.“And that speaks volumes to how challenging it is to find the capacity to run football out of Southeast Alaska,” Weiss said.She said the district will know which conference the team will play in later in the month.Share this story:last_img read more

Alaska weather forecasting getting an upgrade with launch of next-gen satellite

first_imgClimate Change | Energy & Mining | Environment | Fisheries | Public Safety | WeatherAlaska weather forecasting getting an upgrade with launch of next-gen satelliteNovember 8, 2017 by Matt Miller, KTOO Share:A large area of low pressure moves through the Gulf of Alaska in this image from the Suomi NPP satellite, taken on November 6, 2017. The storm generated gale warnings for the south central and southeastern portions of the state. (Image courtesy NOAA/Environmental Visualization Laboratory)A new satellite will help predict Alaska’s weather and warn of natural hazards, much earlier and with better accuracy.Called JPSS-1 as the first in the Joint Polar Satellite System, the next-generation satellite features instruments that can see through clouds, determine sea surface temperatures, detect rising river levels, and spot small fires before they become big ones.The Earth rotates as the satellite orbits from pole-to-pole at an altitude of 512 miles. That means the satellite takes new, close-up pictures of the Earth during each hour-and-a-half orbit.It’s different than geostationary weather satellites, which orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles and appear to remain fixed above a certain point on the equator.Geostationary satellites can’t see Alaska’s North Slope or the Arctic Ocean at the North Pole very well. Polar orbiting satellites, however, don’t have that problem.Dr. Mitch Goldberg, JPSS program scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the satellite has five instruments that are all extremely accurate.“If the atmosphere has a temperature change of, let’s say, just a tenth of a degree, which is important to be able to forecast weather, these instruments can sense that change,” Goldberg said.A rendering of the new JPSS-1 satellite. (Image courtesy of NOAA)One instrument includes a Day-Night Band. Basically, it’s a high resolution camera that can pick up visible light at night and see things in the dark, like clouds, smoke and fog.Nate Eckstein, science infusion and technology transfer meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Alaska, said such visible imagery is very important for a state with long winter nights.“It gives us great detail to see hazards for aviation like fog in a mountain pass before the sun comes up,” Eckstein said. “To get that into the forecast or warn a pilot, many of whom in Alaska are general aviation.”Visual flight rules require pilots to see where they are going, and they cannot fly through clouds.“This ability to detect small areas in tight places where our general aviation aircraft are operating is really key,” Eckstein said.Infrared imaging used by many current weather satellites cannot distinguish between snow and clouds. They both show up as white in the image.In addition, cloud cover in Alaska may obscure important marine or land details for days, even weeks at a time.Eckstein has an example of how the satellite’s microwave instruments will be useful to the Bering Sea fishing fleet trying to avoid sea ice.“Traditionally, I know sea ice analysts would get lots of satellite imagery as one of their primary tools,” Eckstein said. “A lot of it would get discarded because there’s stratus, clouds covering the sea ice edge and therefore they have to go back and use some older imagery to know that’s at.”“Now, with microwave technology, we have the capability to see through these clouds in a lot of cases and know where the ice edge is on a more consistent basis, which leads to more accurate forecasts,” Eckstein said.This image of Alaska was taken by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite’s (VIIRS) Day-Night Band aboard NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite. The new JPSS-1 satellite will also have this instrument, which can see visible-spectrum light at night. This band allows forecasters to view features such as clouds, fog, smoke and even lights at night, which is an important feature for states like Alaska that have long nights in winter. (Image courtesy of NOAA NESDIS)The satellite can provide an earlier warning of developing storm systems in the Western Pacific Ocean, increasing the accuracy of long-range forecasts.Edward Liske, meteorologist and satellite focal point at the National Weather Service office in Juneau, said the new satellite also will provide more information about Alaska at a higher resolution. He said it’s going to provide a lot more data for the numerical models that generate forecasts.“It’ll hopefully make those numerical models preform a lot better and be able to bring forecast systems more accurately and more in advance than what we currently have,” Liske said.Warnings about wildland fires, ice jam flooding or heavy rainfall can also get to key decision-makers sooner.JPSS-1 is a more robust version of NOAA’s Suomi research satellite that was pressed into operation after a successful demonstration six years ago.The new satellite was supposed to be launched this Friday, Nov. 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but that’s been pushed back until next Tuesday, Nov. 14. Once in orbit, the satellite — renamed as NOAA 20 — will be checked out for 90 days before it’s put into operation.Three more polar orbiting satellites in the series will be launched in the next several years.Share this story:last_img read more

Alaska Attorney General asks Congress to open banking for pot businesses

first_imgFederal Government | Marijuana | State GovernmentAlaska Attorney General asks Congress to open banking for pot businessesJanuary 16, 2018 by Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media Share:Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth discusses a lawsuit the state is filing against Purdue Pharma in the state Capitol on Oct. 31, 2017. Purdue makes the prescription pain pill OxyContin. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)Alaska’s attorney general has joined a bipartisan group calling on lawmakers to change federal banking rules over handling legal marijuana sales.Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and 18 other attorneys general sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for legislation that would establish a “safe harbor” for the billions of dollars being generated from recreational and medical cannabis sales each year.They ask that a financial institution be established in a state with legal marijuana in order to monitor compliance, simplify taxation and provide law enforcement a better vantage point to track industry finances.The letter also says the move could help bolster the banking sector by infusing huge sums of cash that are currently barred from deposit and circulation because of federal drug laws.The signatories are from across the country but slant toward generally Democratic-leaning states.Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a policy switch to the Justice Department, scrapping the 2013 Cole Memo that deferred to states on enforcing marijuana laws.The 19 attorneys general say in their letter that change is hastening the need for national legislation clarifying how cannabis should be regulated and policed in states that have voted for legalization.Share this story:last_img read more

Florida governor calls for raising age limit for gun purchases from 18 to 21

first_imgNation & World | NPR NewsFlorida governor calls for raising age limit for gun purchases from 18 to 21February 23, 2018 by Laurel Wamsley, NPR Share:Florida’s governor called for a range of measures that aim to prevent shootings like the one that occurred last week in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and staff were killed.In a news conference Friday in Tallahassee, Republican Gov. Rick Scott called for a number of new laws and programs that fall into three categories: gun laws, school safety, and mental health.He did not call for any specific weapons to be banned, and more than once mentioned that he is a member of the National Rifle Association.“I know there are some who are advocating a mass takeaway of 2nd amendment rights for all Americans,” Scott said. “That is not the answer. Keeping guns away from dangerous people and people with mental issues is what we need to do.”Here’s what he called for in Florida:People under 21 will be banned from buying or possessing firearms with some exceptions for military and law enforcement.A ban on the sale or purchase of bump stocks.$450 million for a safe schools initiative, which will put a law enforcement officer in every public school – at least one officer for each 1,000 students. He does not believe arming teachers is a solution.Money from this program will also be used to fund “school-hardening” measures such as metal detectors, bullet-proof glass, steel doors, and upgraded locks.Hiring more mental health counselors for schools.A program called Violent Threat Restraining Order, which provides a method for courts to prevent people with mental illness or who have made threats of violence from purchasing or possessing guns after a family member or law enforcement officer files a sworn request and shows evidence that a person presents a threat of violence and should not have access to guns.Create a “see something, say something” hotline, website, and mobile app to report concerns.Mandatory active shooter drills at all schools.Scott began his remarks by reading the names of the 17 people who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.“Unfortunately, none of the plans I’m announcing today will bring any of them back, but it’s important to remember them,” Scott said. “The seventeen lives that were cut short and all the hopes and dreams that were ruined have changed our state forever. Florida will never be the same.”The Tampa Bay Times has a full transcript of Scott’s remarks.Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.Share this story:last_img read more

Legislature faces another struggle over long-term budget plan

first_imgPolitics | Southcentral | Southeast | State GovernmentLegislature faces another struggle over long-term budget planFebruary 25, 2018 by Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media Share:Legislative Finance Director David Teal testifies before the Senate Finance Committee in April 2017. Teal estimates Gov. Walker’s budget includes a $672 million gap for the coming year, even with a draw from permanent fund earnings. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)The Legislature is faced with the same dilemma it’s had for the past three years: how to pay for the state budget when oil and gas revenue can no longer cover the costs. The biggest focus is on a plan that would draw from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.The House and Senate both passed versions of legislation to draw from permanent fund earnings last year. While they didn’t iron out their differences over Senate Bill 26, rising oil prices and production have shrunk the gap between what the state spends and what it brings in.But both chambers have taken positions that will make it difficult to pass a combined plan this year. The Senate majority wants a permanent fund draw, and would then wait to see if more changes will be needed in the future. The House wants to balance the budget in the next couple of years, even if it takes a new tax on income or oil and gas production.“We need more revenue. I mean, we need to balance our income and our expenses,” said Homer Republican Rep. Paul Seaton, a member of the mostly Democratic House majority.Seaton is concerned that permanent fund dividends will shrink further without a broad-based tax like a tax on income, as well as higher oil and gas taxes.“For people to have any security that there is a permanent fund dividend, when you start taking money out of the earnings reserve of the permanent fund, they need some security in that (dividend amount), and knowing what that’s going to be,” he said.Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche said the House majority has concentrated on the potential downsides of budget projections, in order to argue for new taxes. He said the Senate is more optimistic.“We do not want to overcapitalize with taxes today,” he said. “There’s a very good chance we’re not going to need them. And had we passed one three or four years ago, we would likely be overcapitalized today by a sum greater than a couple of hundred million dollars.”Micciche said the two chambers should agree on where they have common ground – that is, drawing money from permanent fund earnings.“If you look at what we want to do on discipline regarding the growth of the cost of this government – at inflation or lower – into the future, the reality of it is the fund grows much faster,” he said. “And within a relatively short time, in perpetuity you would never have the need of a broad-based tax in the state of Alaska. I think that’s a worthwhile goal.”One factor that could keep the two sides apart is the challenge in defining exactly what the size of the deficit is.Legislative Finance Division director David Teal, a nonpartisan expert on the budget, said Gov. Bill Walker proposed a budget with a projected gap of $672 million between spending and oil royalties and taxes – if the Legislature passed a permanent fund earnings draw.Micciche said there are a few factors that would drive the number down, including rising oil royalties.Teal said it could benefit the Legislature to agree on the scope of the budget hole they’re trying to close.“You want to avoid the situation that we had years ago, when the House had a revenue forecast, the Senate had a revenue forecast and the governor had a revenue forecast,” Teal said. “And when you’re in that situation, and the constitution requires a balanced budget, what are you balancing to?”The House and Senate haven’t agreed on how much money they need to raise. In addition, they have different ideas on how large permanent fund dividends should be – the House has proposed $1,250, while the Senate proposed $1,000. And there also are differences on how large of a draw the permanent fund earnings can sustain.Teal said agreeing on goals can help frame the discussion.“Until people can agree on a set of outcomes that are acceptable to them, you’re going to have people differing on their opinion of whether an action fixes the problem,” he said.And looming over all of this is an election that will determine the governor, half of the 20 senators and all 40 House members.Lawmakers acknowledge that without a plan this year, the Legislature could make an unplanned draw on fund earnings to close the budget gap.Share this story:last_img read more