Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, January 26, 2004

Fairbanks lawmaker: Split permanent fund

JUNEAU - A Fairbanks legislator wants to parcel out almost half of the Alaska Permanent Fund to residents in one giant dividend and use the rest for state services.

Members of the House Special Committee on Ways and Means were curious but guarded about a plan by Rep. Jim Holm, a Fairbanks Republican, at a hearing Friday.

"He definitely has given us some things to think about," Rep. Peggy Wilson, a Wrangell Republican, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The permanent fund currently holds about $28 billion. Holm's plan would retain $15 billion and distribute the rest in one-time dividends to everyone eligible to receive a check this year.

The dividend program would then end and the state would use the annual earnings of the remaining $15 billion to pay for state services and to grow the fund. At the current fund value, each dividend would total more than $20,000.

Leman holds firm on date for marijuana initiative

SITKA - Lt. Gov. Loren Leman says he is standing by his decision to place the marijuana legalization initiative on the November general election ballot instead of the August primary.

The initiative would decriminalize marijuana use for people 21 and older.

Initiative sponsors last week filed a lawsuit seeking to have the matter decided by voters in the primary Aug. 4. Plaintiffs Tim Hinterberger, Alvin Anders, Scott Dunnachie and Linda Ronan asked for a declaratory judgment.

Initiative sponsors previously won a court victory forcing the lieutenant governor to validate their petition. He initially rejected the petition on the grounds that 194 of the 484 petition booklets had not been filled out properly. Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock described them as "trivial rule violations" and ordered that all valid signatures be counted.

Court upholds conviction on misuse of state seal

ANCHORAGE - The state Court of Appeals has agreed with a lower court and told Scott Robart that he's guilty of a misdemeanor for using the Alaska state seal on a sterling silver commemorative coin without permission.

But after seven years of fighting with the state, Robart is undeterred.

"They're wrong. That's all. It's not the first time and it won't be the last," he told the Anchorage Daily News.

Robart said he is going to ask the Alaska Supreme Court to review the case. The court does not have to accept it.

Robart's troubles began in 1996. The owner of Commemorative Designs, was invited by someone from the state Department of Commerce and Economic Development to submit one of his products for a national TV show featuring Alaska items. He decided to do it and asked the lieutenant governor for permission to use the state seal on a coin. In Alaska, the lieutenant governor is keeper of the seal.

When the lieutenant governor's office didn't reply, "I said, obviously this is not an issue for the state, and decided to go ahead with it," Robart said.

In 1997, the coins were sold on QVC, the home shopping cable network. Unfortunately for Robart, John Lindback, the lieutenant governor's chief of staff, was watching. A few days later, then-Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer sent Robart a letter telling him that her policy was not to allow the state seal to be used for commercial purposes and he had to stop selling the coins.

Robart said he quit offering them to retail stores. But when a man called him at home and said he wanted to buy one, Robart said, "Sure." The caller turned out to be an undercover Alaska State Trooper, and Robart ended up charged with the misdemeanor.

Voters to settle vehicle pollution control debate

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks North Star Borough voters will be asked Tuesday to repeal the vehicle inspection and maintenance program, the most visible arm of area efforts to comply with the Clean Air Act.

A group called the I/M Repeal Committee wants to eliminate the program, saying it is not the reason for cleaner air in the community. The group contends cleaner, more efficient cars are the reason for better air.

The group sponsored a referendum to throw out the program. Voters will get their chance to decide Tuesday.

While repeal supporters believe there is no need for the program, Fairbanksans for Local I/M Control say the issue is about who runs the program, not whether it is necessary.

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