Alaska News Nightly: January 21, 2009

Senator Lisa Murkowski says she’ll push for funding for Alaska projects from her new seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Plus, on their first full day of work, state lawmakers say Alaska’s cash flow problem — due to the low price of oil — will be their top priority.

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Senator Murkowski gains seat on Appropriations Committee
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Senator Lisa Murkowski has secured a seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Her office announced the appointment today. In order to take the slot on Appropriations, she’s giving up membership on the Foreign Relations Committee. But she’ll retain her spot as the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and she’ll stay on the Indian Affairs Committee and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Murkowski says she pursued being on Appropriations in part to push for funding projects that can benefit Alaska, from basic infrastructure like roads to hospitals.

Alaska’s Senators have coffee with visiting constituents
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
About 250 Alaskans gathered in Washington, DC this morning for a Constituent Coffee with their Senators. The event, co-hosted by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Senator Mark Begich, welcomed Alaskans visiting Washington for this week’s Inauguration celebration. The guests expressed a lot of hopes for the new President and their Senators.

Alaskans in Inaugural Parade reflect on the experience
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Alaskans who had a unique vantage point at yesterday’s Inaugural ceremonies in Washington, DC are reflecting on their experiences. Two groups represented Alaska in the Inaugural parade. More than 20 people came from Barrow with the Suurimmaanitchuat Dance group. They were the only Alaska Native group in the parade and rode a float down the route, eventually making their way to the stands where President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle, and Vice President Joe Biden watched with others. Member Robert Akpik, Jr. says it was an amazing experience.

In addition to the Barrow dancers, a marching band came from Colony High School in Palmer. Senior Joy Mielke, 19, says they got up long before dawn to catch a bus to the staging area, and then spent hours in the cold waiting for the parade to start.

Legislature setting session priorities, including Palin inquiries
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

State lawmakers don’t plan to pursue abuse of power findings against Governor Sarah Palin, but they do want to know why their subpoenas were ignored in last fall’s “Troopergate” investigation. Some are annoyed that possible witnesses snubbed a September legislative hearing into Palin’s firing of her public safety director Walt Monegan.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jay Ramras — a Republican from Fairbanks — wants to know more about Attorney General Talis Colberg’s role in their failure to show. Ramras could hold hearings as early as next week. The 14 people, who included some of Palin’s top aides, did ultimately testify or provide written statements.

Meanwhile, the Alaska Legislature is beginning to establish its priorities for the session — with the revenue cash flow problem topping the list of issues that will put everything else in perspective.

Healy Clean Coal restart draws opposition in Homer
Casey Kelly, KBBI – Homer
A crowd of about 50 rallied outside the Homer Electric Association building in Homer today to protest the utility’s involvement in the proposed re-start of the Healy Clean Coal plant.

Troopers warn of new identity-theft scam
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Perpetrators of fraud are getting more creative in their attempts to trick people into revealing their Social Security and other personal numbers. Alaska State Troopers are warning citizens about a new scam targeting the public: jury duty summons. Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters says callers tell their intended identity theft victims that they failed to show up for jury duty and a warrant has been issued for them. When the unwitting person states they haven’t received any notice of jury duty, the caller starts intimidation tactics.

Peters says the main thing to remember is never give out your social security number to callers you’re not expecting.

U.S. Army plans missle tests at Fort Greely
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Army plans to test-fire missiles in Alaska. The Fort Greely-based Cold Region’s Test Center will launch several missiles between January 24 and February 20, south of Delta Junction. The 6-inch diameter, 6-foot long missiles will not contain warheads. The Army is releasing no other details about the new weapons and the Test Center’s John Vigatto says it’s closing off public access to the massive training area.

DNR to create fire breaks near Fairbanks
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Department of Natural Resources plans to again use the winter months to clear fire breaks aimed at protecting Fairbanks from catastrophic wildfires. Fairbanks area fire management officer Robert Schmol says one area being targeted was identified as a risk during the massive “Boundary Fire” in 2004. Schmol says the fire break project off Old Murphy Dome Road has been in the works for 3 years.

Alaska State Library releases rare Kennedy video
Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, KCAW – Sitka
The Alaska State Library Historical Collections has released rare video footage of a speech by U.S. Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, delivered to the Alaska Democratic Party Convention in Sitka on April 7, 1968 — just 3 days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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