State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Legislative panel to hear bill to increase alcohol tax

JUNEAU - The co-chairman of a key legislative committee will release his hold on a controversial bill to raise the alcohol tax.

Rep. Bill Williams, a Ketchikan Republican, announced today he will allow a vote on the measure by the House Finance Committee sometime next week.

The measure would increase the alcohol excise tax by roughly a dime a drink, and it faces strong opposition by the alcohol and hospitality industry. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has supported the bill as a way to curb drunken driving.

Williams opposes the tax hike and held the bill in his committee last year. However, he agreed to allow a hearing on the measure and let the committee decide its fate, he said.

"We've been working the bill and seeing what we can do with it," Williams said. "We'll see what the committee wants to do."

Williams said he will not take public testimony on the bill because the panel already has had "extensive public hearings." The committee took testimony two or three times in Juneau last year and once in Anchorage, he said.

House approves change to Alaska flag song

JUNEAU - The state House today unanimously approved a bill to add a second verse to the official state song, "Alaska's Flag."

The proposed verse recognizes Bennie Benson, the Alaska Native who designed the state flag in 1927.

Bill sponsor Rep. Carl Morgan said passage of the bill would help bridge the chasm between rural and urban Alaskans.

"This song commemorates all cultures of this great state we call Alaska," said Morgan, an Aniak Republican. "This is one of the small steps we must take for us to unite this great state of Alaska."

Here is the new verse, written by the late Carol Beery Davis of Juneau:

"A Native lad chose the Dipper's stars; For Alaska's flag that there be no bars; Among our cultures. Be it known; Through years the Natives' past has grown; To share life's treasures, hand in hand; To keep Alaska our Great Land; We love the northern, midnight sky; The mountains, lakes, and streams nearby; The great North Star with its steady light; Will guide all cultures, clear and bright; With nature's flag to Alaskans dear; The simple flag of the last frontier."

The bill still needs approval by the Senate.

University reaches agreement with adjunct professors

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska has reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with its adjunct professors, the university announced Tuesday.

Details of the agreement were not being released until it is formally approved by union members and the university's Board of Regents. It also is dependent on funding by the Legislature. The agreement would be effective through Dec. 31, 2004.

State gets $365,000 federal grant to promote seat belt use

ANCHORAGE - The federal government has awarded the state a $365,000 grant to promote seat belt use.

Surveys have found that 63 percent of Alaska residents use seat belts. Nationally, about 73 percent of Americans use the safety devices.

The goal of the grant program is to find creative, new approaches to increase seat belt use. Much of the focus will be on visible enforcement of seat belt laws and on public education.

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