State Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Assembly passes truancy ordinance

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly unanimously passed an ordinance Monday night that will allow school administrators to fine students or parents $100 for habitual truancy. Under the ordinance, subsequent truancy infractions would result in a mandatory appearance in after-school court and could lead to higher fines.

The truancy ordinance, sent to the Assembly by the Juneau School District, mirrors similar laws in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Students are required by state law to attend school. Truancy infractions can result in a state court appearance, but officials say a local law would be more expedient.

The ordinance would apply to students ages 7 to 16. Administrators will decide whether to fine students or parents on a case-by-case basis, said Superintendent Peggy Cowen.

"It's unfortunate that this problem exists, but it does," said Assembly Member Marc Wheeler. "Kids and parents need to learn that there are consequences."

Assembly hears mining ordinance testimony

JUNEAU - With testimony on a street obstruction ordinance and a truancy ordinance lasting until 10 p.m. Monday, discussion on the city's proposed mining ordinance started late and was continuing at 10:40 p.m.

The city adopted the current mining ordinance in 1986 and revised it in 1989. The ordinance outlines the permitting process for Juneau mines, and calls on the city to review a mine's possible effects on air and water quality, hazardous and toxic material, safety and other items such as traffic, noise, dust, landslides and erosion.

The new ordinance would exempt rural mines from city permitting conditions already covered by state and federal environmental reviews.

The Assembly heard testimony on both sides of the issue. Juneau resident Dixie Hood urged the body to retain the city's permitting oversight on rural mines.

"Eliminating duplication is one thing, circumventing hard-won public process is quite another," Hood said.

Juneau attorney Eric Twelker said the ordinance would promote the mining industry while preserving city oversight on mines that operate near residential areas.

City Manager Rod Swope recommended in his pre-meeting report that the ordinance be sent back to the Committee of the Whole for additional work.

Wellness challenge registration begins

JUNEAU - The Eagles vs. Ravens Wellness Challenge begins Thursday, but participants can register now.

The South East Alaska Regional Health Consortium, backers of the annual six-week event to promote exercise, will register participants from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in the lobby of the new SEARHC Juneau Medical Center, Building One. Registration also will be at the same time Wednesday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall and Friday at the Gruening Park Recreation Center.

Participants earn points for exercise off the job, including walking, bicycling, chopping wood and running. The event is based on traditional clan competition, though teams can be made up of a mix of Eagles, Ravens and non-Natives.

The opening ceremony is noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at the ANB Hall. For details, call 463-5850.

House eliminates funds for community schools

JUNEAU - State support for community schools programs would go away under a bill passed by the House.

Gov. Frank Murkowski proposed the bill as a cost-saving measure. The state is spending $500,000 a year on grants to local school districts for the after-school and weekend programs.

Advocates for the programs say the money is well-spent because it is used to leverage thousands of hours of largely volunteer instruction for children and adults. But administration officials say the law setting up the state grant program was only intended to help communities get their programs started. They say the state has done that.

The House voted 23-8 Friday for the bill eliminating support for the program.

Voting against it were Democratic Reps. Beth Kerttula of Juneau, Albert Kookesh of Angoon, and Sharon Cissna, Harry Crawford, Les Gara and Mike Hawker of Anchorage. Republican Reps. Pete Kott of Eagle River and Beverly Masek of Willow also voted no. The bill still must be approved by the Senate.

Bill to end adverse possession passes Senate

KENAI - The Alaska Senate has passed a bill that would wipe the 800-year-old common law doctrine of adverse possession from Alaska law.

Senate Bill 93, sponsored by Sen. Tom Wagoner, a Kenai Republican, repeals Alaska's adverse possession law. The doctrine, first established in the Middle Ages, could allow squatters on private property to legally assume ownership of that property under certain well-defined conditions.

Wagoner said it is a doctrine the state should abandon.

"Our law, right now, allows a person who has no claim of ownership to squat on someone else's property and, as a result of their illegal trespass, the squatter could actually secure title to the property they are squatting on," Wagoner said. "That is simply legal thievery - to me, that is offensive and it needs to stop."

Senate Bill 93 now heads to the House.

Murder trial begins

KETCHIKAN - A man accused of beating another man to death during the holidays two years ago begins his trial Tuesday.

Brock G. Charles, 39, is accused of killing Gordon Rasnick late Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning 2001.

Rasnick, 50, died near the front door of his home after suffering a beating underneath a nearby wooden stairway. Police said evidence indicated Rasnick crawled up the stairs before dying.

Police got a break in their investigation in March 2002 that led them to a witness. The witness reportedly told officers he and Charles had been drinking Christmas Eve at Charles' apartment and that Charles had argued with his girlfriend. Charles then allegedly left the apartment in a rage, stating that he wanted to find somebody to fight, according to police.

The witness said the two men were walking when Charles bumped shoulders with an older, smaller man. Charles then assaulted the man and the witness walked away, but could hear the assault continuing, according to police.

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