Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, April 01, 2004

Rep. Williams requests increase in ferry funding

JUNEAU - Alaska's ferry system could get a boost from a proposal by House Finance Co-chairman Bill Williams, R-Saxman, to increase funding by $8 million.

The funding request represents a 25 percent increase over Gov. Frank Murkowski's proposal to spend $32 million on ferry system operations in 2005.

"Since the governor introduced the budget in December, AMHS projections show increased fuel cost of at least $3.5 million," Williams said in a written statement. "I want to be absolutely sure the ferry system has enough resources to operate next year without having to reduce service to our communities."

The House version of the budget is expected to move to the full House of Representatives next week for consideration.

Police allege weapon brandished in traffic

JUNEAU - Police arrested a 21-year-old man on a felony charge of third-degree assault Wednesday, alleging he pointed what appeared to be a handgun at another motorist in response to a traffic dispute.

Jack Paine, described as a Juneau resident, was lodged without bail at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center, police reported.

According to Sgt. Kevin Siska, officers responded to a report of a driver of a red Chrysler brandishing a handgun. At 12:51 p.m., they met at Aurora Harbor with the 16-year-old alleged victim, who said he had been involved in a minor traffic incident with a man who displayed the gun.

Responding officers stopped a red Chrysler Sebring near 12th Street. The alleged victim identified Paine, Siska reported. Also in the Chrysler were three others, ages 17, 19 and 23.

Police found a BB gun that resembled an actual handgun in the vehicle occupied by Paine, Siska added.

Juneau police seize half-pound of marijuana

JUNEAU - Police questioned two people Wednesday after seizing about a half-pound of marijuana from a package that smelled suspicious to a U.S. postal inspector at the Mendenhall Valley Post Office branch.

Police reported that the Southeast Alaska Narcotics Enforcement Team learned from the inspector Wednesday that the package had come in emitting the odor of marijuana.

Investigators contacted a 43-year-old man after he picked up the package. They had the package opened and found the marijuana. Investigators also questioned a local 44-year-old woman a short time later, police reported.

The case remains under investigation, police reported. Possession of marijuana in the quantity seized would be classed among the most serious misdemeanors recognized by Alaska law.

Senate approves trio of victims rights bills

JUNEAU - Police and prosecutors would have to tell some crime victims about the Office of Victims' Rights under a bill approved in the Senate on Wednesday.

The office was created by the Legislature in 2002 to advocate for victims in court but is not well-known to many residents who become victims of crime.

Stephen Branchflower, head of the office, told a legislative committee earlier that many of the people his office aids learned about it late in the judicial process.

House Bill 348 would require police and prosecutors to distribute pamphlets printed by the Office of Victims' Rights during their initial contact.

The bill was given final passage in the Senate by a vote of 20-0 with no debate. It now goes to the governor for consideration.

The Senate also approved a bill to change the ability of defense attorneys to interview minors who were witnesses or victims of sexual offense. Under the bill, defense attorneys or their investigators would have to get permission from a parent before interviewing the juvenile.

Bill to require carbon monoxide detectors

JUNEAU - Carbon monoxide detectors would be required in most Alaska homes under a bill that passed the House on Wednesday.

Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, said the requirement could save lives and protect children whose developing brains can be damaged by continuous exposure to even low levels of the gas.

The mandate would work similarly to an existing requirement that homes have smoke detectors. In rental homes, landlords would have to install the detectors, and tenants would be responsible for replacing batteries if needed and making sure the detectors are working.

Gatto said carbon monoxide poisoning kills 1,500-2,000 people a year in the United States and sends 10,000 to the hospital. In Anchorage last December, a family of five died from inhaling the poisonous gas.

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