State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, April 06, 2003

Bill would change frequency of spill plan renewals

JUNEAU - Companies wouldn't have to renew their oil spill plans as frequently under a bill that passed the House on Friday.

Senate Bill 74 would require companies to file oil spill prevention and spill contingency plans every five years, instead of every three years as currently required.

Gov. Frank Murkowski's administration requested the bill, which would change state law to mirror federal requirements.

Administration officials say the change would let Department of Environmental Conservation staff focus more time on testing spill plans through field inspections and drills.

The bill passed the House 37-1, with Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, a Juneau Republican, casting the only "no" vote. He gave notice he may bring the bill up Monday to reconsider his vote.

Boost in business license fee passes committee

JUNEAU - A bill that would increase the price of a business license is headed to the House Finance Committee.

The measure would boost annual fees for business licenses to $50 for businesses with zero to four employees; $100 for businesses with five to 19 employees; and $200 for businesses with 20 or more employees.

The current fee is $25 for all businesses, regardless of size.

The House Labor and Commerce Committee passed the measure Friday, after earlier amending it to lighten the load on smaller businesses.

The measure was proposed by Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, who had sought a $200 fee for businesses, regardless of size. That would have raised about $7.1 million more a year.

The Labor and Commerce Committee's version of House Bill 162 would raise about $2.1 million more a year.

Republicans turn back habitat resolution

JUNEAU - House Republicans lined up behind Gov. Frank Murkowski on Friday over his decision to strip the state's habitat division of its permitting authority.

An executive order issued by Murkowski is scheduled to take effect April 15 unless the Legislature votes to overturn it. But a resolution to do that has been firmly lodged in the House Resources Committee. And chairman Hugh "Bud" Fate, a Fairbanks Republican, said he has no immediate plans to move it.

That led to a motion by Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, to take the resolution out of Fate's committee. But the motion failed on a 25-13 vote Friday, with all Republicans but Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer opposing it.

Under the governor's executive order, the Fish and Game commissioner will lose legal authority over fish habitat protection for the first time since statehood in 1959. The power to say yes or no to a development project that affects salmon or other fish would shift to the commissioner of Natural Resources.

Elmendorf airmen give Letterman's Top 10

ANCHORAGE - Alaska is "cool," said David Letterman on his "Late Night" show broadcast Thursday.

Letterman introduced 10 men and women at Elmendorf Air Force Base to recite the evening's "Top Ten" list of "Cool Things About Being Stationed in Alaska."

The show's writers provided the list.

10. "Thanks to soft, snowy ground, no push-ups!" (recited by Airman First Class Nick Schulte)

9. "Don't have to worry about sunscreen like those suckers stationed in Hawaii." (Senior Airman Amanda Baldwin)

8. "Our state-of-the-art surveillance equipment makes salmon fishing a snap." (Staff Sgt. Richard Canady)

7. "When the days get really short, we only put in a 45-minute work week." (Staff Sgt. Candra Maita)

6. "One of the senior airmen is a moose." (Master Sgt. Kevin Barry)

5. "Can't taste mess hall food when your tongue is frozen solid." (Senior Master Sgt. Eric Stenerson)

4. "On weekends, can take advantage of Nome's crazy nightlife." (Canadian Air Force Warrant Officer Vimy Trevors)

3. "The government provides mittens." (First Lt. Carrie Howard)

2. "If you want baked Alaska, just order 'baked here.' " (Capt. Derek Sellnow)

1. "Daily schedule: one hour doing Air Force stuff; nine hours snowboarding." (Lt. Col. Mark Nakanishi, the squadron commander).

Anchorage man sentenced in wife's death

ANCHORAGE - A man who shot his wife to death but claimed it was an accident was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.

Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides accepted a plea bargain by Joshua Longley and sentenced him to five years in prison for manslaughter in the shooting death of his wife.

Longley, 28, said he thought the rifle he aimed and fired at his wife, Susan Williams, in their trailer Oct. 8 was not loaded. The couple's two children and Longley's girlfriend were present at the time, watching television.

Longley said he was changing the scope on the gun.

Prosecutors accepted that the shooting was not intentional but labeled it extremely reckless, not a true accident. They charged Longley with manslaughter and second-degree murder.

In a negotiated agreement between the prosecution and defense, the murder charge was dropped and Longley agreed to plead to manslaughter and serve a sentence of eight years with three suspended, plus 10 years' probation after his release.

At a court hearing in February, Williams' family, speaking by phone from Outside, asked Judge Joannides to reject the sentence as too lenient. Joannides said the five-year term also bothered her and invited prosecutor Sharon Illsley and defense attorney Craig Howard to defend the deal.

Illsley on Friday called the charge and sentence "extremely serious" and appropriate given the facts the state believes it could prove if it went to trial.

Howard said the sentence was standard for a first offender.

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