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6/4/15 Legislators in recess as government shutdown looms

Conference Committee, House and Senate scheduled to meet Friday

Representatives of the state House and Senate serving on the Legislative Conference Committee are scheduled to meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. Their assignment is to come up with a compromise operating budget. The Senate calendar shows it plans to convene tomorrow at 11 a.m. and the House at 2 p.m. Friday. Lay off warning notices were sent Monay to about 10-thousand state employees, giving them 30-days-notice they’ll be laid off if the Legislature doesn’t pass a budget by July 1.


New rules coming on child protection, tribal courts for Alaska Native, American Indian children

By Matthew Smith, KNOM

New regulations are coming for a federal law the seeks to keep Alaska Native and American Indian children in foster care within their family and tribes—and tribal sovereignty experts say it could have major implications for foster care in Alaska.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law that has been a constant source of contention—and endless legal battles—since it was passed in 1978. During the second day of presentations on tribal justice at the Kawerak Rural Providers Conference in Nome, John Bioff with Kawerak’s tribal court office outlined those changes revealed in March—and says the changes will be felt nationwide.

“There have been gaps and confusions and some bad case law that’s been made since the ICWA law was enacted, said Bioff. “And I think the new ICWA laws are a positive development that seek to add a lot of clarification to the older ICWA law in areas that have been problematic in Alaska.”

With the vast majority of tribal court cases in the Bering Strait and Norton Sound region relating to child protection, Bioff says the new regulations would clarify what the rules are for transferring a case to a tribal court.

“For instance, the regulations spell out what are grounds to deny a transfer to a tribal court. For instance, how far along the case is in the state court is not a legitimate grounds to deny a transfer,” Bioff explained. “Overall in our region we work very well with the Office of Children’s Services, but overall over time since I’ve been doing this work I think overall this is going to clarify a lot.”

Bioff says the new regulations not only clarify uncertainties in old ICWA law—they also present a host of new directives for state agencies and courts would have to comply with in order to protect family and tribal placement for foster kids.

The new ICWA regulations are far from law—the Department of Interior only just ended a comment session, and legal maneuvering for those both for and against the new rules could push their finalization anywhere from months to years off. Still, Bioff says, the process may be slow, but it’s one that’s trending toward progress.


Oil company Repsol predicts 2.4 million barrels per year outpupt

The Spanish oil company Repsol has confirmed that two of their North Slope test wells could produce up to 2.4 million barrels of oil per year. The prospect is near the Colville Delta, north of Nuiqsut. In a release from the company, Repsol Executive Vice President of Exploration and Production Luis Cabra said the company is happy with its finds and with the state's tax structure.

If the wells are developed, they could add about 6,700 barrels to the pipeline per day.  Current flow rates are about 500 thousand barrels per day. The company has already started seeking permits. They have 16 positive test wells on the North Slope.

A race from Washington state to Southeast Alaska sets off with only two rules

Dozens of people are setting out from Washington state for Alaska today in a 750-mile race up the Inside Passage, a coastal waterway through islands known for its dramatic tidal changes and spectacular scenery. The inaugural Race to Alaska has drawn rowers, sailors, canoers and kayakers from across the country to compete in a contest that has just a few rules - no motors allowed and no help once you start.