EMERGENCY RESPONSE – Members of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood this week organized a city-wide food drive for residents of Angoon and other villages affected by the lack of Alaska Marine Highway System ferry service. Hundreds of pounds of food were collected at Sitka High School and other drop off sites. Thursday night about three dozen people attended a meeting at ANB Founders Hall to discuss the ferry situation and prepare food for shipping. Laurie Serka, outstation manager for Alaska Seaplanes, said Alaska Seaplanes, Sitka Custom Marine and Dr. Sul Ross Thorward donated shipping costs for the perishable food donated by AC Lakeside. Tom Gamble is planning to take a load of food to Angoon aboard his boat. Donations for shipping food to Kake are currently being sought. Contact for the donations is Nancy Furlow, ANS Camp 4 president, 907 227-9102. PHOTOS: clockwise from top left, Laurie Serka, Steve Schmidt and Marjo Vidad of Alaska Seaplanes load food bound for Angoon this morning. Tom Gamble and Chad Titell  deliver boxes of food from Sitka High School to ANB Founders Hall Thursday night. Paulette Moreno, ANS Grand Camp president, addresses volunteers Thursday night. Sitkans gather in a circle at ANB Founders Hall Thursday to brainstorm responses to the lack of state ferry service. (Sentinel Photos by James Poulson)

Senate Starts Work, Shakes Up Panels

Associated Press
    JUNEAU (AP) — The first day of the legislative session Tuesday featured fallout from a budget vote last year, as the Alaska Senate shook up its committees and some conservative members cried foul.
    Senate President Cathy Giessel said the changes were discussed during an hours-long caucus meeting Tuesday. She said the Republican-led caucus had an agreement that members would vote on the budget and that three members last summer took actions at odds with that.
    Sen. Lora Reinbold, an Eagle River Republican, last July voted against a bill aimed at largely restoring vetoes made by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The bill also included funding for an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend check of about $1,600 to residents. Sens. Mike Shower and Shelley Hughes, who showed up for part of that debate, were shown as excused on the final vote. All three, who had supported a larger dividend in line with Dunleavy’s call to pay the check according to a decades-old formula, lost key positions in the committee shakeup Tuesday.
    Reinbold called Tuesday’s actions — affirmed on a 13-7 floor vote — a “restructuring of power” in the Senate.
    Rules announced by the caucus ahead of last year’s session said members who “find themselves unable to” vote for the budget would not face automatic removal from the caucus. Rather, it said consequences “will be determined by the caucus and consider the importance of representing constituents.”
    Shower, a Wasilla Republican, said Tuesday he was being held to account for an excusal allowed under Senate procedures. He said he saw the committee change-ups as punitive and marginalizing.
    Shower was one of two members who lost a seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee. The other was Sen. Peter Micciche, a Soldotna Republican who was named Senate Resources chair. The finance committee was expanded for last year’s session with what the majority had described as a goal of giving more senators “hands-on roles in the budget process.”
    Giessel said Tuesday the winnowing of the finance committee was the choice of the co-chairs, Republicans Bert Stedman and Natasha von Imhof. Returning it to seven members “creates a more nimble committee,” she said, adding that senators will still have input in the process.
    Hughes, a Palmer Republican, said she saw the changes as punishment for members’ positions on the dividend.
    Some committee changes were expected with a new senator, Josh Revak, on board. He replaced Chris Birch, who died last year. Birch had been the Senate Resources chair.

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