NO MOORE CLINIC – Contractors from CBC Construction use an excavator to tear down the  Moore Clinic building this morning. The building, which was most recently owned by SEARHC, was built in the mid-1950s by Dr. Phil Moore. Moore was a pioneering orthopedic surgeon who came to Sitka after WWII to open a clinic to treat tuberculosis patients from around the state on Japonski Island using vacated Naval base buildings. He helped develop new treatments for TB which was devastating Native communities. That operation evolved into SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. Moore also helped establish Sitka Community Hospital in the 1950s. The cleared clinic lot will likely be used for building housing by SEARHC. ( Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Legislature Convenes; Faces Familiar Issues

By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press
    JUNEAU (AP) — Alaska lawmakers began a new legislative session today in which they’ll resume debates that have dominated recent sessions amid middling oil prices, including the size of the check to pay residents from the state’s oil-wealth fund.
    Some lawmakers are hopeful agreement can be reached on long-simmering, divisive issues, including possibly setting a new Alaska Permanent Fund dividend formula. After last year’s contentious, drawn-out sessions and with elections looming, others are cautious in their expectations.
    Most legislative seats are up for election this year, and Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is seeking to fend off a recall threat following a tumultuous first year in office.
    The recall effort was fueled by anger over budget cuts he proposed last year in response to a lingering deficit, and lawmakers, too, pushed back against the cuts. In his proposal for the upcoming budget, Dunleavy eschewed deep cuts. He also relied heavily on savings, which some lawmakers deem unacceptable.
    So what now? Things to watch this session:
DIVIDEND
    Dunleavy has said a decades-old formula for calculating the dividend should be followed until it’s changed and he has supported giving Alaskans a say on changes. The formula hasn’t been followed the last four years, as the state has wrestled with the deficit, and the Alaska Supreme Court has held that without a constitutional amendment, the program must compete for funding like other programs do.
    Dividends traditionally have been paid with permanent fund earnings, which lawmakers in 2018 also began using to help pay for government. They also sought to limit earnings withdrawals, heightening tensions involving how much should go to dividends or services.
    The draw limit for the upcoming fiscal year is about $3.1 billion. Under Dunleavy’s proposal, $2 billion would go to dividend checks, according to the Legislative Finance Division.
    The check size has been decided recently by what lawmakers can agree on. Last year’s $1,606 check used additional funds from savings.
    The Legislative Finance Division, in a new report, said the dividend was short by about $10 a person due to what appeared to be an accounting error in the transfer of savings. Acting state Revenue Commissioner Mike Barnhill said Tuesday officials are awaiting completion of a financial report for clarity on that.
    He said by email that the division that pays checks originally underestimated the number of applications for dividends and that there are more dividends to be paid than originally estimated. Because of this, he said it’s unlikely the amount transferred from savings resulted in any short payments.
    Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, an Anchorage Democrat, said he’s hopeful agreement can be reached on a revised, “sustainable” formula. House Finance Committee Co-chair Jennifer Johnston, an Anchorage Republican, expects discussions on whether it’s time to change in law the calculation but sees adhering to the draw limit as important.
    She said she doesn’t think the state will have the “luxury” this year of paying as large a dividend as last year.
    Rep. Cathy Tilton, a minority Republican on the House Finance Committee, said members of her caucus want to follow the dividend law, but if it’s something that isn’t going to be followed, changes should be looked at.
    “It doesn’t mean that I’m in support of the changes one way or the other, but the conversation needs to be out there,” she said, adding later: “I think that whatever happens with the dividend you need to have the voices of Alaskans engaged in that.”
BUDGET AND TAXES
    Senate President Cathy Giessel said financial experts have indicated the constitutional budget reserve should have at least $2 billion to provide a cushion for unexpected costs.
    The account has been drawn down as lawmakers have struggled with how to tackle the deficit and was valued at about $2.2 billion at the end of 2019, according to the Department of Revenue. Dunleavy, in his new budget proposal, calls for using $1.5 billion from the reserve.
    Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, recently told the Resource Development Council she believed proposals to raise motor fuel taxes and levy a $30 annual tax on people employed in the state could gain traction.
RECALL
    Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth earlier this month ordered the Division of Elections to provide petitions by Feb. 10 that would allow recall backers to begin gathering the more than 70,000 signatures they would need to advance the effort.
    On Tuesday, however, he granted a request by a group opposed to the recall to stay that decision pending  resolution of the matter by the Alaska Supreme Court.
    Dunleavy has argued the effort is politically motivated and that the judge’s decision, if it stands, would set a low bar for pursuing recalls. Recall supporters say the effort is bipartisan.
   

August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 9-25-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 1:10 p.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 127

Total statewide – 7,254

Total (cumulative) deaths – 51

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (8 resident; 12 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 41 (37 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 277.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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20 YEARS AGO
September 2000

School Superintendent John Holst, Police Chief Bill McLendon and Magistrate Bruce Horton are among panelist confirmed for a community forum on teen alcohol and drug use and the new random drug testing by police in the schools. Other panelists are to be Tribal Judge Ted Borbridge, Nancy Cavanaugh, R.N.,  Asst. District Atty. Kurt Twitty, Tami Young, Trevor Chapman and School Board member Carolyn Evans.

50 YEARS AGO
September 1970

Mark Spender, son of Dr. and Mrs. Ed Spencer, and David Bickar, son of Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Bickar, are among 14,750 high school seniors honored today be being named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition.

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