Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Senate OKs bill opening kids' library records

JUNEAU - Parents would be able to check out their kids' public library records under a bill the Senate approved Tuesday.

Sen. Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, sponsored the bill after hearing complaints from constituents that they weren't able to find out when their kids' books were coming due and weren't able to pick up books their children had put on hold.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, was one of four senators voting against the bill. Legislators do not require other places children visit, such as movie theaters, to disclose what kids have been viewing, he said.

If a community believes lack of access to library records is a problem, it should be handled at the local level, Elton said.

But Green said the law as written now does not allow local governments to address the issue. It requires public libraries to keep the records confidential.

North Slope Borough mayor convicted of DUI

FAIRBANKS - The mayor of the North Slope Borough has been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Mayor George Ahmaogak of Barrow was convicted Monday by a District Court jury after about three hours of deliberation.

Ahmaogak was not in his office Tuesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

His lawyer, Mike Kramer, said Ahmaogak faces a $1,500 fine and two days in jail when he is sentenced Thursday before District Judge Winston Burbank. Ahmaogak has already served one day in jail. Ahmaogak, 55, was arrested about 4 a.m. July 19 by Alaska State Troopers in Fairbanks after he was seen driving in the wrong lane of traffic.

Citizens file complaints against Rep. Kohring

ANCHORAGE - Wasilla Rep. Vic Kohring is facing ethics complaints filed by two citizens who say he held an illegal private meeting to discuss a coal bed methane bill.

The complaints charge that Kohring, a Republican who chairs the House Special Committee on Oil and Gas, halted his own committee meeting last week so lawmakers could leave the room and talk in private.

Larry LaGrone of Wasilla and Roberta Highland of Homer, who listened to the meeting on teleconference, filed the complaints with the Legislative Ethics Committee.

Kohring's meeting was to discuss a bill dealing with controversial matters of coal bed methane development in populated areas. State coal bed leases, which Kohring champions, have caused a furor in the Matanuska-Susitna and Homer areas.

About halfway through the meeting, Kohring put a halt to public comment.

"Just a real brief at ease ... be just a small meeting of members of the committee here outside of the room here," Kohring announced, according to a tape recording of the hearing.

He then walked out of the room, along with Anchorage Republican Rep. Norm Rokeberg - a member of the ethics committee - and Republican Rep. Jim Holm of Fairbanks, said Judy Erickson, the publisher of a weekly oil and gas report who was at the meeting.

"I was stunned," Erickson told the Anchorage Daily News.

Anchorage Republican Rep. Cheryll Heinze then told the Democrats on the committee, Reps. Harry Crawford of Anchorage and Beth Kerttula of Juneau, that they should come along as well. The Democrats declined.

"I was astounded. It's the first time I'd ever seen anything that blatant," Crawford said Monday.

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