Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Murkowski expands special session focus

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JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski on Tuesday added bills to the Legislature's special session agenda to allow police to detain unwilling crime witnesses and to appropriate $4 million to study a natural gas pipeline from Fairbanks to Wasilla.

"Normally I wouldn't expand the call, but I think this is too important to ignore," Murkowski said.

Meanwhile, new legislation was introduced Tuesday on the main topic of the session: restructuring the state's oil and gas production taxes.

The House State Affairs Committee's bill would increase production taxes by .35 percent for every dollar that the price a barrel of oil rises above $50.

Committee Chairman Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said the bill is designed to fit in with whatever production tax structure the Legislature decides upon, whether it is a version of Murkowski's tax on oil companies' Alaska profits or one based on the gross amount of oil produced. Seaton said it could also work with the existing system if the Legislature fails for the third time this year to change the tax structure.

At the same time, Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, and seven other members of the minority Democratic Party reintroduced their own version of a production tax based on gross oil production.

Court set to issue gay marriage ruling

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington state Supreme Court expects to issue its long-awaited ruling Wednesday in a case challenging the state's gay marriage ban, justices announced.

The news surprised those who expected a decision after the fall elections, and sent supporters and opponents of gay marriage rushing to prepare.

If the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act is overturned, Washington would become the second state after Massachusetts to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. But while Massachusetts' gay marriage rights extend only to residents, Washington state marriage licenses carry no residency restrictions.

Idaho River logjam blocks 200 rafters

BOISE, Idaho - A logjam on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River has temporarily blocked about 200 rafters from floating through a remote stretch of wilderness, outfitters say.

The Middle Fork, a 100-mile stretch of water in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, is considered one of the most thrilling whitewater floats in the country.

The central Idaho waterway is accessible only to those with permits.U.S. Forest Service spokesmen and outfitters familiar with the Middle Fork told KTVB-TV in Boise that they have never seen a blockage this large.

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