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KNBA News - Senate Finance proposes to restructure Permanent Fund, dividends

KNBA News for April 13, 2016

Senate Finance proposes to restructure Permanent Fund, dividends

The Senate Finance Committee has come up with a proposal to spend some of the Permanent Fund earnings and to set the dividend amount at a thousand dollars a year for the next three fiscal years. Committee co-chair Anna MacKinnon called the idea the Senate's best proposal to close the budget gap and not impose taxes on individual Alaskans. However, a recent University of Alaska report says cutting the amount of dividends would cost the poorest Alaskans the most. An earlier proposal by Governor Bill Walker would include a broad-based income or sales tax, as well as budget cuts, and restructuring of the Permanent Fund and dividends.

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Bill to ban Planned Parenthood in schools fails in House Committee

By Hannah Colton, KDLG - Dillingham

A bill to ban organizations like Planned Parenthood from teaching sex education in public schools failed in a House Committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 89, which would require parents to opt their kids in to sex ed lessons, was introduced by Sen. Mike Dunleavy of Fairbanks and narrowly passed House Education last month.

On Tuesday afternoon the Health and Social Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer, heard over two hours of heated public testimony on both sides before putting the measure to a vote.

Vice-Chair Rep. Liz Vazquez, an Anchorage Republican, told the committee she supports the bill because she believes Planned Parenthood curriculum contains graphic material that many families would find offensive.

“I’ll be blunt: I’m a bit shocked by what I have found,” said Vazquez. “I find that the materials are culturally insensitive. By that I mean it is insulting, it is degrading to traditional cultures. They are traditional Muslim cultures, traditionaly Hispanic, southeast Asian, and African cultures. This is very insulting.”

Rep. Geran Tarr of Anchorage opposed the bill, citing the need for comprehensive sexual education in a state with high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It’s time that these are issues that are talked about, that we remove the silence around these issues,” said Tarr. “And having these education materials in the school is a piece of that.  It’s been talked about today how the information can help. There’s research that demonstrates without question that sexuality education works. And that it actually can delay onset of sexual activity.” 

Tarr also noted that parents currently have the right to take their kids out of lessons if they wish.

The bill failed in the committee 2-5. Two similar bills – S.B. 191 and H.B. 352 – are still moving through the Legislature.

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Togiak tribe banishes alleged drug dealer

by Dave Bendinger, KDLG - Dillngham

The Togiak traditional council has rolled out the “not welcome” mat to a Dillingham man they say has been importing alcohol and drugs into the community. KDLG’s Dave Bendinger reports:

This is the second time in a year that the Togiak tribe has banished an individual from the village. Last fall, local air carriers were informed that the first of them, a 23-year-old from Dillingham, was no longer welcome in Togiak. On Friday letters went out that the second had been banished as well. He, a brother to the first, is 26 years old.

"I think we need to do this, to protect our future children, and our elders, because they're vulnerable. It’s been getting worse, and we’re saying enough is enough," said traditional council president Jimmy Coopchiak.

The tribe has decided not to publicly release the men’s names. Because the allegations of drug and alcohol importation leveled against the men are not based on state criminal complaints or filed in open court, KDLG has withheld their names from this report.

Local airlines confirmed that the tribe had asked them not to allow either of these brothers passage to the village.

Banishments from tribal lands in Alaska are not necessarily common, but are not unheard of. The procedure appears to be of renewed interest as communities wrestle with the epidemic of heroin and meth use.

“It’s rare, but we are exercising our sovereign authority as a federally-recognized tribe," said Togiak tribal court clerk Helen Gregorio.

Gregorio said banishment begins with a petition to the tribal council, which then meets with the court's three judge panel. Once the banishment order has been signed, the tribe says its police force will arrest the men if they set foot on their tribal lands.

The first man was banished for life, the most recently banished for the next 10 years.

Coopchiak said the council is taking more petitioned cases under consideration right now, these involving actual tribal members who live in Togiak.

"If it’s a tribal member, we have the authority to revoke their membership in our tribal membership," he said.

Coopchiak and other officials in Togiak, a dry village, say the amount of hard drugs and alcohol coming in has spiked dramatically in the past two years. They blame that in part on direct cargo flights from Anchorage, and a lack of enforcement. They say they are asking the state and federal governments for help, hoping for funding and expanded jurisdiction for their tribal police and court.