State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2003

Pioneers honor their king and queen

JUNEAU - The Juneau Pioneers of Alaska Igloo and Auxiliary No. 6 will honor this year's king and queen, Maurice and Angie Long, during a tea at the Pioneers' Home from 2-4 p.m. today.

In May each year, the Juneau Pioneers of Alaska Igloo and Auxiliary No. 6 elect a king and queen. The public is invited to attend the crowning ceremony, and refreshments will follow.

Woods fire extinguished

JUNEAU - Juneau firefighters on Friday evening put out a one-acre blaze in woods about 200 yards from the Mendenhall Campground.

Starting at about 6:40 p.m., firefighters pumped water from a nearby pond to extinguish the fire within an hour.

A firefighter reported that children had been playing with fireworks. The U.S. Forest Service is investigating.

The agency said the danger of fires in lower elevations near Juneau this weekend is much higher than normal. The National Weather Service predicted gusty winds and warm, dry days over the weekend.

Prior to Friday, the Juneau Ranger District has had two fires this season, both caused by campfires that weren't put out, the agency said. Campfires should be drowned, stirred and drowned again, the Forest Service said.

Education secretary to visit the Bush

ANCHORAGE - U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige will tour rural Alaska schools Monday and Tuesday.

Alaska education officials hope he will see they have little chance of meeting provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law without help.

State officials want Paige to grant Alaska exceptions to the sweeping education act that outlines strict provisions for student achievement and qualifications for teachers and aides.

They are concerned with provisions that require hiring high school teachers with a degree or a major in the subject they teach; hiring "highly qualified" teacher aides in remote villages that have little access to higher education; testing in Alaska's smaller schools, where even a handful of absent students can mean the school fails to show adequate yearly progress as defined by the federal law; and giving students the option to transfer elsewhere if a school is identified as "in need of improvement."

On Monday, Paige will fly to Bethel in southwest Alaska. Then he will shuttle 40 miles to Tuntutuliak, a village of about 400 people. Paige also will stop in Nome and Fairbanks.

Fairbanks boy critical after bike accident

FAIRBANKS - A boy riding a bicycle was seriously injured Thursday after he crossed in front of a pickup truck on a South Fairbanks road.

Patrick Thomas McDonald, 12, was reported in critical condition at the pediatric intensive care unit at Providence Hospital in Anchorage.

The boy suffered massive head and abdominal injuries when he was hit at about 1:40 p.m. by the truck traveling at an estimated 40 mph, the speed limit, on Peger Road.

The boy had abdominal surgery and his spleen was removed at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. He then was flown Anchorage, where doctors operated to relieve swelling to his brain.

Fairbanks Police detective Tara Tippitt told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that police do not expect charges to be filed against the 22-year-old driver.

The man told police the boy appeared suddenly in the road on his bike. The boy was not wearing a helmet.

Kodiak Assembly OKs Afognak sale

KODIAK - The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly on Thursday endorsed state acquisition of 17,000 acres of North Afognak Island.

If the state agrees, conservation groups who are brokering the deal will match funds with Exxon Valdez oil spill settlement money and federal wetland grants to purchase the land for $21 million from several Native corporations. The land will be turned over to the state for recreation and habitat management.

The land extends from Delphin Bay through Perenosa Bay to Seal Bay. It is critical habitat for Roosevelt elk, brown bear, Sitka deer, salmon and seabirds, including two species that have not yet recovered from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The land also includes a Sitka spruce forest that contains 300- to 400-year-old trees.

Amendments clear Ways, Means Committee

JUNEAU - Two constitutional amendments that would affect state budgets in years to come passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.

House Joint Resolution 9 would prevent state spending from growing more than 2 percent a year without a three-quarters vote of the Legislature. The measure now goes to the House State Affairs Committee.

House Joint Resolution 25 calls for an annual payout of 5 percent of the Alaska Permanent Fund's market value. The Legislature could spend that money for dividends, state government or a combination of the two.

That resolution now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Both measures are a long way from becoming law. Constitutional amendments must pass both houses by a two-thirds vote. If they pass, voters would have the final say at the general election in November 2004.

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