Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Senate-initiative sponsors file lawsuit to put measure on ballot

Supporters of an initiative seeking to change how Alaska fills unexpired U.S. Senate terms sued Tuesday to put the measure on the ballot.

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman decided last week that a law passed by the Legislature this year was substantially similar to the initiative and that the question no longer needed to go before voters. The lieutenant governor oversees the Division of Elections.

Representatives of Trust the People, which sponsored the initiative, said Leman's decision was unacceptable because the law still allows the governor to fill vacancies under certain circumstances.

"The whole point of the initiative was to have the people elect their United States senator when there's a vacancy," said state Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, one of three House Democrats who formed Trust the People.

Both the law and the initiative require U.S. Senate vacancies to be filled by a special election, rather than by gubernatorial appointment.

However, the law lets the governor make temporary appointments to fill the office until the required special election can take place in 60-90 days.

The initiative did not allow any appointment by the governor - not even a temporary one. An appointee would have an advantage in the next election, Croft said, in fund-raising and name recognition.

Fires blacken more acres

Wildfires burning through Alaska's Interior spread through thousands of more acres Tuesday, some moving too fast for fire crews to land on the ground, officials said.

About 177,825 acres were on fire Tuesday. Nine separate fires continued to blaze in the 55,000-acre Solstice complex after firefighters put out four others on Monday.

The largest of those fires, the 44,130-acre Pingo fire, increased nearly 7,900 acres Tuesday, said fire information officer Gary Lehnhausen. The other major fire there, the Winter Trail fire, grew by 11,490 acres to 29,080 acres.

Pilot disorientation blamed for fatal crash

Pilot disorientation and possible equipment failure were to blame for a fatal crash near Eielson Air Force Base in February, an Air Force investigative board said Tuesday.

Jonathan Scheer, a highly experienced pilot, was killed when his A-10 jet crashed during a night-training mission.

Scheer, 31, was piloting the lead plane in a group of four when his A-10 Thunderbolt crashed two minutes after take-off, according to the board's 36-page report released Tuesday.

The six-member board found the primary cause of the Feb. 25 crash was Scheer's disorientation, which prevented him from regaining control of the plane or ejecting safely. Scheer did eject but not soon enough for his parachute to open as the plane went down in the Chena River flood plain a few miles from the base, 26 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

Ramsey resentenced to 198 years in shootings

Evan Ramsey has been resentenced to 198 years in prison in the 1997 shootings at Bethel High School, where two people were killed.

The sentence is a reduction from the 210-year original sentence handed down in 1998 by Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Mark Woods after a Dillingham jury convicted Ramsey of two counts of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and seven counts of third-degree assault.

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