BECKY BOHRER

Chenault: House asks Senate for joint session on overrides

JUNEAU — The Alaska House has asked the Senate to meet in joint session to consider potential overrides of vetoes made by Gov. Bill Walker, Speaker Mike Chenault said Wednesday. The Nikiski Republican said he sent a letter to Senate President Kevin Meyer asking for a joint session Friday.

Chenault said he’s not sure where the votes might be to try to override any particular veto. But he said there’s enough interest on his side to at least hold a session to consider potential overrides.

Special session probable

JUNEAU — The prospect of a special session looms as Alaska lawmakers hit their fourth month in regular session without agreement on a plan for pulling the state out of a massive budget deficit.

Lawmakers worked past the voter-approved 90-day session limit in April after failing to come to terms on changes to Alaska’s oil and gas tax credit system. The state constitution allows for 121-day regular sessions, a mark lawmakers reached Wednesday.

Moda Health leaving Alaska individual health market in ’17

JUNEAU — One of the two companies offering individual health insurance policies for Alaskans announced Monday that it will not be participating in that market next year. The announcement by Moda Health would leave Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield as the only company providing individual health insurance policies in the state as of Jan. 1.

Bills propose increased local contributions to pension plans

JUNEAU— Bills calling for increased local contributions to two state pension programs and an overhaul of a community assistance program have been proposed in the Alaska Senate as lawmakers look to further cut costs amid a bulging budget deficit.

Measures introduced Monday would increase local contributions to the public employees’ and teachers’ retirement systems.

State now accepting applications for marijuana business licenses

JUNEAU — A regulatory board in Alaska on Wednesday began accepting applications for marijuana business licenses — the next step in setting up the state’s legal pot industry.

Leif Abel has had the date marked on his calendar. He and his partners have been building a facility on the Kenai Peninsula for their company, Greatland Ganja. To apply for a license, prospective business operators need to have secured a site.

Walker permanent fund plan gets first hearing

JUNEAU — The chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee said Tuesday that he wants to vet several ideas surrounding the use of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.

Sen. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said that could include a constitutional amendment to allow voters to weigh in on the matter. So far, such a measure has not been introduced.

Stoltze said he wants to be able to have different bills and ideas ready to send to the Senate Finance Committee for additional review.

Walker calls for bold action in State of State speech

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker called for bold action and for Alaskans to pull together as the state confronts a multibillion-dollar budget deficit exacerbated by chronically low oil prices.

He used his State of the State speech Jan. 21 for a “family talk,” to lay out the situation for Alaskans and his plan to deal with it through use of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings, taxes and budget cuts. “Time is of the essence,” he said.

Walker calls for bold action in State of State speech

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker called for bold action and for Alaskans to pull together as the state confronts a multibillion-dollar budget deficit exacerbated by chronically low oil prices.

He used his State of the State speech Jan. 21 for a “family talk,” to lay out the situation for Alaskans and his plan to deal with it through use of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings, taxes and budget cuts. “Time is of the essence,” he said.

Aerospace corporation seeks ways to privatize

JUNEAU — The president and CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corp. said Monday that the board of the state-owned corporation has recommended it pursue becoming a private company.

Craig Campbell said the recommendation has been delivered to Gov. Bill Walker, who has not yet said how he would like to proceed. State law would have to be changed to allow for the shift, Campbell said.

“Our intention and what we’re working on right now is to develop the corporation so we would not ever go back to the state for any operations funding,” he said.

Walker reflects on his first year in governor’s seat, looks ahead

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker likened his first year in office to moving into a new house that catches fire on move-in day, with low oil prices fueling a massive state budget deficit.

But he said his biggest surprise has been how much he enjoys the job, calling himself a problem solver who likes to be a bit creative.

Board changes residency rules for pot businesses

JUNEAU — The board tasked with writing rules for Alaska’s recreational marijuana industry backtracked Tuesday and adopted stricter residency requirements for applicants for pot business licenses.

The Marijuana Control Board scuttled a rule adopted last month that would use the residency requirements needed to vote in Alaska in favor of using the more stringent standards needed to qualify for the yearly check from Alaska’s oil wealth fund.

Cost to agree on Alaska’s budget: $886,000 for two special sessions

JUNEAU — Alaska’s two special sessions, held earlier this year as lawmakers struggled to agree on a state budget, cost more than $886,000, according to figures provided by the Legislative Affairs Agency.

Jessica Geary, the agency’s finance manager, said Tuesday that some claims could still come in and that figure could increase, but she expects the vast majority of claims already have been submitted.

New director announced for Division of Elections

JUNEAU — Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has chosen a new director for Alaska’s Division of Elections.

Mallott asked for and accepted the resignation of Gail Fenumiai on Friday, said Claire Richardson, a special staff assistant to Mallott.

Fenumiai will be replaced by Nome city manager Josie Bahnke, who is scheduled to begin her new role Oct. 1. Lauri Wilson, a regional elections supervisor, will serve as acting director in the meantime, Richardson said.

High court: mine initiative unenforceable

JUNEAU — Alaska’s highest court ruled Friday that an initiative seeking to restrict large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region seriously impedes a regulatory process set out in state law and is unenforceable.

The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed a lower-court ruling in litigation over the initiative passed by Lake and Peninsula Borough voters in 2011.

Tough budget decisions still ahead

JUNEAU — It took two special sessions for Alaska legislators to agree to a budget after a crash in oil prices contributed to a severe reduction in the state’s available revenue.

Barring a huge rebound in oil prices, things aren’t expected to get much easier next session.

While legislators made big cuts in spending, they likely won’t be able to repeat the same level of cuts to Alaska’s infrastructure budget, for which the use of unrestricted state funds was reduced largely to the amount needed to meet federal matching-grant requirements.

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