Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2006

Just hours left for Medicare deadline

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JUNEAU - Today is the enrollment deadline for Medicare recipients, including people 65 and older than who do not currently have a Medicare PDP or what government administrators regard as creditable coverage.

Enrollment is open until midnight Sunday at 1-800-Medicare.

Applicants who do not enroll before midnight must wait until the next annual enrollment period - Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, 2007 - or they will accrue a late sign-up penalty, health officials said.

The penalty does not apply to people who already have creditable coverage, such as insurance through a union or an employer.

In the past, Medicare did not cover medication expenses, but in 2003, Congress addressed the growing problem of prescription costs by developing a plan known as Part D.

Separate plans might have different stipulations, so individuals with creditable coverage should read over their policies, health authorities said.

People who have both Medicaid and Medicare also can sign up at any time. The coverage may help lower the cost of prescription drugs and help protect against higher costs in the future.

Look for free rides on New Year's Eve

JUNEAU - A state retailers association is hoping New Year's Eve revelers take part in its "Safe Ride Home" program.

Bar and restaurant patrons can tell which establishments are participating by looking for a sign that lets customers know they can get a free ride home. The service is available throughout the Juneau area.

The program is sponsored by the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association.

"We just want to make sure everyone gets home safely," said Leann Thomas, a member of the association's Juneau/Lynn Canal branch.

Last year, 440 people took advantage of the service, and the association expects more this year.

Federal subsistence councils appointed

JUNEAU - Appointments to the Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council were announced Friday afternoon by Gov. Sarah Palin's office.

The appointees include Bert-rand Adams Sr. of Yakutat, Michael Bangs of Petersburg, Nicholas Davis of Kake, Michael Douville of Craig, Merle Hawkins of Ketchikan, Donald Hernandez of Pt. Baker, Joe Hotch of Haines, Harvey Kitka of Sitka, Floyd Kookesh of Angoon, Patricia Phillips of Pelican, Richard Stokes of Wrangell, Lee Wallace of Saxman, and Frank Wright Jr. of Hoonah.

The appointments were made by Alaska Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.

The regional advisory councils advise the Federal Subsistence Board on subsistence management regulations and policies and serve as a forum for public involvement in the management process.

Assessment firm chosen for arts center

JUNEAU -The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and the CBJ Performing Arts Center Commission, have chosen AMS Planning & Research to perform a needs assessment and feasiblity study for a new performing arts center.

Headed by Robert H. Bailey of Petaluma, Calif., an AMS team will make recommendations for the center's size, a forecast for scheduled use and activities, an analysis of annual operating revenues and an estimate of construction costs.

With the help of John S. Fisher, an architect from California, Bailey will conduct two workshops in Juneau with representatives of local performing art groups. He also plans to meet with representatives of businesses, the visitor industry, schools and government agencies.

The meetings are likely to be scheduled in early to mid-February 2007. The Performing Arts Center Commission, appointed by Mayor Bruce Botelho, expects to have a final report from AMS by the end of March 2007.

Governor vetoes ban on same-sex benefits

ANCHORAGE - In the first veto of her administration, Gov. Sarah Palin ended a bill that sought to block the state from giving public employee benefits to same-sex couples.

The governor said she rejected the bill despite her disagreement with a state Supreme Court order directing the state to offer benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.

Palin said she vetoed the bill on the advice of her new attorney general who said it is unconstitutional.

"Signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office," Palin said in a prepared statement released by her administration Thursday night.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the bill barring regulations implementing same-sex benefits during a November special session. The measure would have prevented the commissioner of administration from taking action on the new benefits plan.

Woman charged with assault after spanking

FAIRBANKS - A woman licensed as a child-care provider was charged with misdemeanor assault after spanking a 4-year-old in her care.

A parent reported the spanking to Fairbanks police.

Regenia Dark, 47, was booked at the Fairbanks Correctional Center and her home business, Bright and Morning Star child care, was closed following the complaint, she said. Dark said she plans to hire an attorney.

The spanking occurred Dec. 20. Charges were not filed until this week. The 4-year-old girl had been in Dark's care for two years.

Authorities found bruising on the child's buttocks and a hand print on one of the 4-year-old's legs, according to court records.

Dark disputes that the spanking was harsh, saying it was no different from spankings she gave her own children. She regrets spanking the girl without her mother's permission.

Joy ride ends when teen backs into officer

FAIRBANKS - A 13-year-old boy's joy ride ended when he backed the car into the truck of an off-duty police officer.

The boy was driving his father's Pontiac Grand Prix and was wearing headphones. He had just picked up a 14-year-old girl when the accident took place about 7 p.m. Tuesday.

According to court records, Fairbanks Police Lt. Doug Whorton was driving west on Hampstead Avenue in Fairbanks after attending a Neighborhood Watch meeting when the driver passed from the opposite direction.

Whorton estimated the boy was driving 10 to 15 mph over the speed limit. The lieutenant turned around and followed him.

The Grand Prix slid around a corner, skidded sideways about 60 feet and came to a stop in front of a home. The teenager was taken to the Fairbanks Youth Facility and charged with reckless driving and driving without a valid operator's license.



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