State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Teachers willing to strike

JUNEAU - Juneau school teachers Tuesday afternoon gave their union in advance the authority to call a strike if negotiations don't produce a contract.

Juneau Education Association President Tom Gill said about 80 percent of union members attended a meeting at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium, and 99.48 percent of them voted in favor of an advisory strike vote.

The school district and the 350-member union - which represents teachers, counselors and librarians - are at an impasse in negotiating a new contract. The current contract expires June 30.

The parties have scheduled a mediation session for May 28.

The union is seeking a 2 percent increase in the rates on the salary schedule, and movement up the schedule for eligible employees. The schedule pays employees more for added experience and college credits.

The union also wants the school district to pay more of the monthly insurance premiums.

The district has said it can't afford to raise the salary rates, but it has budgeted to move employees up the schedule for experience and college credits.

Predator control bill passes House

FAIRBANKS - A bill to increase the Board of Game's predator control powers passed the state House on Monday.

The bill has already passed the Senate, but it still faces an uncertain future. It has to clear a couple of procedural hurdles before the Legislature adjourns Wednesday. And Gov. Frank Murkowski, who has the power to veto the bill, has voiced opposition to it.

Murkowski spokesman John Manly told the Fairbanks News-Miner on Monday that the governor maintains his disapproval of the bill.

"He's said every time it's been brought up that it's not what he's looking for," Manly said. "He said, as it is, it's not acceptable."

But Manly would not say whether the governor will veto the bill.

Senate Bill 155 by Sen. Ralph Seekins, a Fairbanks Republican, would clarify that land-and-shoot predator control is legal and would allow predator control programs to be based not just on prey populations but also on harvest and predator numbers.

Driver's license bill passes House

JUNEAU - Drivers who cause an accident that results in a death could lose their driver's license for up to three years under a bill that passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on Tuesday

Rep. Carl Gatto, a Palmer Republican, said Senate Bill 53 was filed by Republican Sen. Scott Ogan of Palmer in response to the 1994 death of 19-year-old Palmer resident Micah Campbell.

Campbell was killed by a driver in an oncoming vehicle that crossed the double-yellow line to pass another car and caused a head-on collision.

"The careless driver did not suffer a three-year license revocation and just a few months later - and this is hard to believe because it's hard for me to accept - killed an additional two people (in another automobile accident)," Gatto said. "If anything we may be understating this bill, but at least it's a start."

Senate looks at crab quota plan

WASHINGTON - A wide gulf remains between supporters and critics of processor quota shares for crabs in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, and that was reflected in a Senate hearing Tuesday.

Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, chaired the Senate Commerce Committee hearing about a proposal for splitting crab shares. The proposal was endorsed last summer by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

While many in the industry support the idea of reducing the fleet, conserving crab, and conducting safer fishing operations, they're badly split on the proposal for processor quota shares.

Under that plan, 90 percent of the crab harvest would go to a designated set of processors exclusively and 10 percent would be open.

Kevin Duffy, state commissioner of fish and game and a member of the North Pacific council, defended the quota system, saying it recognizes the investments processors have made and will help keep them viable.

But his view is much different from the perspective of Kodiak City Manager Linda Freed, who argued that individual processor quotas would be a step backward in Alaska fisheries management.

Fire claims boat, possible arson

JUNEAU - A Tuesday morning fire which destroyed a 24-foot boat stored behind a local business may have been intentionally set, fire officials said.

Capital City Fire and Rescue responded to a fire around 6 a.m. on Mendenhall Mall Road behind Rainforest Detailing. Firefighters found a 24-foot Bayliner boat engulfed in flames, said Capt. Beth Weldon.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze, but the boat was totaled, said Weldon. She estimated the damage to be about $15,000. A truck parked nearby also sustained minor damage.

Fire Marshal Richard Etheridge said the fire started inside the boat, but the cause is still under investigation. He said it is likely the fire was caused by arson because there wasn't anything near the boat which could have started the fire.

No one was injured in the fire. The boat owner's name was not released.

Earthquakes jolt Alaska

ANCHORAGE - Two light earthquakes occurred within minutes of each other in Southcentral Alaska Tuesday morning.

The first quake occurred at 8:49 a.m. about 45 miles east of Iliamna, according to the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer. The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 4.0 and was 73 miles deep.

The second quake occurred at 9:09 a.m. about 40 miles west of Homer. It also had a preliminary magnitude of 4.0, according to the tsunami warning center. The earthquake was 25 miles deep.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from either quake.

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