Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, November 07, 2005

Governor seeks more education funding

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski said Sunday he will seek a $90 million increase in state education spending to cover higher fuel costs, contributions to the teachers retirement system and to meet targets for student progress in grades kindergarten through high school.

Addressing the Alaska Association of School Boards meeting in Anchorage in a taped address, Murkowski said he also will ask the Legislature for $5 million to continue a statewide mentoring program for teachers and principals.

Costs of that program previously had been paid by the federal government, the administration said. The program, which last year helped 330 teachers in 31 districts, seeks to increase student achievement and retain teachers and principals.

The administration's school funding proposal would provide $40 million for increased costs of the Public Employees Retirement and the Teachers Retirement systems; $30 million to pay increased fuel and other expenses; and $20 million to help districts meet state goals for adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The state's per-student funding would increase from $4,919 to $5,347.

Murkowski also said he would continue to urge lawmakers to decide school funding early in the session. "Early funding spares teachers the anxiety of wondering whether their contracts will be renewed and helps districts better retain valuable staff," he said.

Murkowski tries to relax passport rule

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Frank Murkowski said he was trying to relax a U.S. plan that would require people traveling between the United States and Canada to carry a passport or similar identification.

"Most people have to have an ID now anyway, but a passport is a big step and it requires a lot of lead time," Murkowski told reporters Friday in Washington, D.C., where the governor spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Friday by phone. "It's going to create some real problems."

John Katz, head of the governor's Washington, D.C. office, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Washington bureau that Chertoff agreed to look at the situation.

Canadians and Americans currently need a birth certificate or driver's license to cross the border. Under the plan announced by the United States in April, people who travel by air or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda and South and Central America will have to show a passport or one of four other secure documents by Dec. 31, 2006.

Travelers crossing land borders, namely from Mexico and Canada, will have to comply with the rules by Dec. 31, 2007.

Murkowski said he hopes that some less stringent identification could be required in some areas.

He said the new rule is a threat to free travel on the Yukon River between Old Crow, in Canada's Yukon Territory, and Fort Yukon.

"I don't know how we're going to handle our aboriginal people who are used to coming back and forth over the border," Murkowski said. "Of course, there's no border station there anyway. You can just come back and forth anyway and what do you do about it? Do you arm the border? I don't know."

$6.9 million ticket sold at small grocery

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The winner of a $6.9 million lottery jackpot bought the ticket at the Milk Barn Grocery and Deli in Snoqualmie.

It was the largest Lotto jackpot since June, when a Seattle couple won $9.3 million, lottery officials said.

The winning numbers were 25-29-40-46-47-48.

No one had claimed the jackpot as of Sunday morning, when the Washington Lottery issued a news release saying where the ticket had been purchased.

Lottery officials did not immediately return messages left Sunday evening.

The Milk Barn Grocery and Deli will get a $69,000 retail bonus for having sold the winning ticket.

Chemical reaction trips Hanford alarm

RICHLAND, Wash. - The U.S. Department of Energy activated its emergency operations center at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on Sunday evening after a chemical reaction set off a fire alarm.

No radioactive materials were involved, and there were no immediate reports of any injuries.

"There is no fire at this time," Calvin Dudney, a spokesman at Hanford's joint information center, told The Associated Press around 7:45 p.m., about two and a half hours after the incident occurred.

Ten employees in the affected "went into alert mode and have taken cover," Dudney said.

The Energy Department said a chemical reaction involving sodium and potassium triggered the fire alarm in an area of the Hanford site that includes the department's newest reactor, the Fast Flux Test Facility.

It happened while subcontractors were converting sodium and potassium alloy materials in a fuel storage facility next to the Fast Flux Test Facility.

That conversion process is part of the cleanup and decommissioning of the facility, which was used from 1982 to 1992 for testing of advanced nuclear fuel and nuclear power plant operating procedures, and for production of numerous isotopes for medical and industrial use.

Roadblocks were set up to prevent any other personnel from entering the area where the incident occurred, about 10 miles from Richland in south-central Washington.

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