Stevens alters use of anti-alcohol funds

Posted: Wednesday, November 05, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Sen. Ted Stevens inserted $17 million to combat Alaska's alcohol problems in a funding measure approved by the U.S. Senate, but made some changes in how the money will be administered.

The money was included in next year's funding for the Interior Department, which was approved Monday. Stevens, an Alaska Republican, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Instead of giving the money to the Alaska Federation of Natives to administer - as he has in the past three years - Stevens specified which Alaska programs should benefit.

The House already has approved the bill so its next stop is the White House, where the president is expected to sign it into law.

Stevens directed that none of the anti-alcohol money in the bill "be used for tribal courts or tribal ordinance programs or any program that is not directly related to alcohol control, enforcement, prevention, treatment or sobriety."

It does stipulate that $2 million will go to the state for the Village Public Safety Officer Program to fight bootlegging.

AFN will get $2 million of the $17 million to give out as "competitive merit-based grants."

Stevens has sent AFN a total of $45 million over the past three years to fight alcohol abuse, with few restrictions on what the group could do.

Two years ago, when he was securing the group's second installment of $15 million, Stevens said he wasn't bothered that AFN hadn't yet come up with a spending plan. He said then that he preferred that the group take its time and select the best proposals.

Julie Kitka, president of AFN, said her board chose to award most of the money to regional nonprofit organizations, which spent it on a range of programs.

"The wellness and sobriety movement had a big share of the resources," Kitka said.

She said AFN was intended to act as a "catalyst" for the programs, and she believed it did.

Stevens' directions this year emphasize treatment programs and an initiative to put behavioral health counselors in every village.

Stevens also added a rider to the bill that would speed court challenges to timber sales in the Tongass National Forest.

"It sets timelines for judicial review. The amendment does not take a position with regard to whether timber should or should not be harvested," Stevens said in a press release.

Environmentalists said it only gives them 30 days to find out about timber sales and prepare their appeals.

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