Senate passes schools tax measure
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JUNEAU - A bill that would levy a several hundred dollar head tax on rural residents to benefit schools is on its way to the Alaska House.
The bill passed 11-to-6 on reconsideration in the Senate Monday.
The tax would be paid by residents living in the 19 politically unorganized regional education assessment areas of the state. The areas have mostly Alaska Native populations. Under current statute, a resident who does not pay the tax could have their Alaska Permanent Fund dividend garnished.
Bill sponsor, Anchorage Republican Sen. Con Bunde, said he determined the amount by averaging what the rest of the state's residents pay annually for education.
The Department of Revenue estimates that to be about $467.99 a head, which would generate about $9.2 million a year.
The tax would be paid by those between 21 and 65 years of age who live outside organized boroughs. Disabled veterans and residents with an income below the federal poverty level would be exempt.
Bunde said his bill would generate more money for schools and foster a spirit of "buy-in" on the part of local residents.
While the legislature cannot dedicate the funds, Bunde said the bill's intent is to return the money in the form of state grants to the rural areas that paid the tax.
While Bunde said the bill has been characterized as "anti-rural" and "anti-Native," he contends it's a matter of fairness. He said of 34 organized areas that already make local contributions, 17 are rural.
Officials euthanize roosters bred to fight
KODIAK - Authorities have euthanized 27 roosters confiscated this month in an alleged cockfighting operation.
"This was a last resort, but there was no other choice," said Kathy Daquilanea, manager of the Kodiak Animal Shelter. "These animals were bred and trained to fight."
The roosters were killed Friday by lethal injection and later destroyed in a city incinerator.
Six breeding hens also confiscated were not destroyed and are available for adoption.
"We are looking for suitable homes for the hens," Daquilanea said
Animal rights group launches campaign
ANCHORAGE - An animal rights group is taking aim again at the state's aerial wolf control plan and tourism dollars with an ad slamming the program.
"If you shoot wolves to save moose and then you shoot the moose you're either out of your mind or in Alaska," the ad says above a pack of wolves in a snowfield.
Connecticut-based Friends of Animals ran the ad Monday in the nation's largest newspaper, USA Today. It will also run in several magazines this spring.
The bottom of the ad asks for contributions. It also asks travelers to boycott Alaska because it says tourist dollars condone the slaughtering of wolves.
Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral said the ad will stem tourism in Alaska.
More than 500 wolves have been killed by aerial gunners since the state started the predator-control program, intended to produce more moose.
Feral said she hopes the campaign will capitalize on Alaska's image problem, made worse by the so-called bridges to nowhere debate.
"The state is going to have to spend and spend and spend to overcome an image problem that comes from mean-spiritedness and primitive ideas," Feral said.
The campaign started just days after Gov. Frank Murkowski announced the state will pay up to $150,000 for a marketing study to improve the nation's view of Alaska. The governor said criticism of the bridges, for instance, shows people don't understand Alaskans.
Shifting sands reveal old shipwreck
OCEAN SHORES, Wash. - A ship that carried Northwest loggers and miners, housed visitors to the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and served as a charter fishing base before it was grounded in a storm is emerging from a sand dune like a ghost unearthed by a howling wind.
The once-buried hulk of the S.S. Catala was first exposed by erosion in the winter of 2002 and was further uncovered Feb. 4 by high winds and seas that rearranged beaches at Damon Point State Park, said ranger Jim Schmidt and local historians.
A dramatic shift of the sand on the Protection Island spit uncovered about 100 feet of the hull maybe 4 or 5 feet deep, Schmidt said. Hundreds of people have crunched through the sand since then to look at the shipwreck. The corroding rust is part of an evolving sculpture with sand, carved by wind and water.
The Catala still carries a lot of history, say docent Diane Beers and curator Gene Woodwick of the Ocean Shores Interpretive Center.
The 229-foot ship was launched in 1925 in Glasgow, Scotland, and carried coastal freight and passengers from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Southeast Alaska, Woodwick said.
Vancouver Island town mourns loss of whale
GOLD RIVER, British Columbia - Two-year-old Matea Girotto thinks all whales are called Luna.
She sees a whale on television or a picture of a whale in a book and she'll immediately yell "Luna," her father Alberto said Monday.
A killer whale that officials believe was Luna was killed last Friday after being hit by the propeller of a large tugboat.
Luna had a deep effect on this Vancouver Island community, located about 200 miles northwest of Victoria on Nootka Sound.
About 130 people gathered Monday at the community wharf to remember the whale who made the area his home since 2001, when he became separated from his pod.
Local Indians are also planning a celebration ceremony for Luna sometime this summer, likely in July, Canadian Press reported.
A spokesman for the tugboat company, Great Northern Marine Towing Ltd., of New Westminster, British Columbia, said the captain and crew of the vessel General Jackson were heartbroken.
Luna, known to enjoy playing in boat wakes, was swimming under the 104-foot tugboat at the time of the accident, Lara Sloan, a spokeswoman for Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said earlier.