State Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2002

House hears second verse of Flag Song from Youth Choir

JUNEAU - The Alaska Youth Choir gave the state House a chance to hear - literally - one of the bills they'll probably vote on this year. During opening ceremonies of the House of Representatives on Monday, the Juneau children's choir chimed out two verses of "The Alaska Flag Song," instead of one.

Fourteen representatives, including House Speaker Brian Porter, are sponsoring a bill to add the second verse, which honors the contributions of Alaska Natives, to the official state song.

Adoption of the second verse was among more than 100 measures Gov. Tony Knowles' Commission on Tolerance recommended to heal the racial divide between whites and minority groups. The commission was appointed following public outrage last winter over paintball attacks on Natives in downtown Anchorage.

Porter said having both verses of the song performed Monday seemed like a nice beginning to an effort to bridge the rural-urban divide. An aide to Porter arranged the opening-day ceremony.

The second verse was written by the late Carol Berry Davis, who lived in Juneau. She was disturbed that the original song did not recognize Alaska Natives, said Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who backs adopting the second verse.

The bill's first hearing will be 8 a.m. Thursday in the House State Affairs Committee.

Cancer measure proposed by Gov. Tony Knowles

JUNEAU - A bill to continue Medicaid coverage for women diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer has been introduced by Gov. Tony Knowles.

The bill would remove the expiration deadline lawmakers added to legislation originally sponsored by Knowles and passed last year. Knowles said an unusual "sense of the House" vote held at the end of last session showed strong support in the Legislature for ending the two-year sunset provision in the law.

Under the program, 24 Alaska women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 105 diagnosed with cervical cancer in fiscal year 2001. Knowles named the bill in memory of Barbara DuBois, who testified in favor of the original bill while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. DuBois has since died.

Senate President Rick Halford said he's not sure removal of the sunset clause is necessary and also said that spiraling Medicaid costs warrant more scrutiny.

"I was satisfied with the provision in that legislation last year that said anybody that was in the program never would get knocked off the program," the Anchorage Republican said. "I've heard that there are some interpretations that bring that into question. I'll listen to that, certainly."

Halford also expressed concern about "overpayment in the Medicaid system - millions, if not tens of millions" of dollars.

"There's room for a major, major audit in that area, and I believe they'll find some very serious problems."

Legislative committee hires gasline consultant

JUNEAU - A Fairbanks economic research firm was hired by a joint legislative committee to research North Slope natural gas issues.

Northern Economic Research Associates was granted a $168,000 contract by the Joint Committee on Natural Gas Pipelines. The contract runs until June 30.

"Natural gas represents an important new phase of Alaska's petroleum and petrochemical industry, and it is important that we have expert advice on how the state should proceed in pursuit of new opportunities," said Sen. John Torgerson, a Kasilof Republican who chairs the joint committee.

Northern will advise the committee on various proposals to construct natural gas pipelines to the Lower 48, he said.

Alaska's oil industry is currently studying two proposals to ship about 37 trillion cubic feet of North Slope natural gas to the Outside.

Marine Highway opens downtown office

Juneau - The Alaska Marine Highway debuts a new downtown satellite office in Centennial Hall today.

Customers will be able to pick up schedules, make reservations and purchase tickets downtown, as well as at the office at 6858 Glacier Highway.

The satellite office is in the Juneau Convention and Visitor's Bureau information complex within Centennial Hall. Winter hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Anchorage murder trial begins

ANCHORAGE - The trial of an Anchorage man charged with murder after a basketball game began Monday in Anchorage Superior Court.

Jerome Logan, 22, is charged with first- and second-degree murder and assault in the shooting death of Billy Watterson, 21, in July 2000.

Both sides agree the shooting occurred when a fight fueled by alcohol exploded in racial taunts after a pickup basketball game, attorneys said.

In opening statements before Judge Michael Wolverton, assistant district attorney Hollis French told the jury that Logan had opportunities to leave after the fight. Instead, he took a gun from his car and returned, French said.

"Jerome Logan should have walked away. Anger and alcohol clouded his judgment," the prosecutor said.

But defense attorney Rex Butler said Logan didn't intend to shoot anyone when he brandished the gun. Logan was angry because of racial taunts directed at him after the basketball game, Butler said. The gun went off during a struggle between Logan and other people, he said.

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