Business

House has a moment of silence for Orland victims

JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska House of Representatives stood for a moment of silence Monday to honor the shooting victims of the deadly attack at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Rep. Matt Claman asked his colleagues to stand in unity for those injured and killed and their families.

The Anchorage Democrat says, “It’s a tremendous loss.”

Lawmakers are meeting in special session to address budget shortfalls because of the low price of oil.

VA ends contractor’s duty of making appointments

JUNEAU (AP) — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is returning to using its own employees to handle appointments for Alaska veterans who need medical services outside the VA system.

State lawmakers announced Monday that TriWest Healthcare Alliance will no longer make appointments for veterans. The company will still be responsible for billing and maintaining relationships with medical professionals, The Alaska Public Radio Network reported.

Report examines five-year outlook for peninsula economy

The Kenai Peninsula’s relatively diverse economy has some room to grow in the next few years, accommodating for lower oil prices and production as well as an aging population.

The most recent Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, compiled by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, reviews some demographic and employment statistics while proposing broad goals for the next five years. The plan will be updated every year but provides a broad framework for the future of the economy, said Rick Roeske, the KPEDD’s executive director.

Producers and co-producers: a sympiotic relationship

Even on a rainy day like last Saturday, the Homer Farmers Market is packed. It is filled with what are known as “co-producers.”

To understand what a co-producer is, we need to think about producers. They are the dedicated individuals who show up every week and stand in their booth (smiling or grumbling, depending on personality) chatting with Market patrons. They have been planning all week for this day, scheduling out harvest times and sequential plantings, noting quantities and quality of the different varieties of veggies they will be bringing.

'Keen Kow' invites diners to 'eat Thai food'

Ninilchik may be small in size, but not flavor. The most recent offering attracting hungry residents, visitors and Sterling Highway travelers is Keen Kow Thai Food.

No puzzle about the restaurant’s name. Translated, it means, “Eat Thai food.” That encouragement is underscored by the tantalizing aroma welcoming diners and hinting at chef Nina Oliver’s skill when it comes to combining herbs. Oliver and her husband, Rick, are owners of Keen Kow.

Answers to your questions about the Permanent Fund bill

The Alaska Legislature is moving quickly to address a bill that would divert a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for the state’s annual expenses, but judging by the emails and calls reaching legislative offices this week, Alaskans still have a lot of questions.

Here’s some answers to some of the most common questions we’ve heard in the Bill Ray Center this week about Senate Bill 128:

 

Why do we need this bill?

More rats seen on Kodiak

KODIAK (AP) — A pest control technician in Kodiak says this year’s warm winter has caused a spike in the number of rats on the island.

BJ Johnson with American Pest Management said rat populations have surged throughout Kodiak Island this year following a third straight winter of warmer-than-normal temperatures.

“It is definitely a rat season,” Johnson told KMXT-FM. “We haven’t had a real cold winter in at least three years now, and hence that gives them plenty of comfortable climate to propagate, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Senate votes to spend permanent fund earnings on state operations

The Alaska Senate voted late Monday to spend almost $1.8 billion per year from the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings reserve on the operations of state government.

If approved by the House, the action would erase about half of Alaska’s multibillion-dollar deficit but roughly halve the annual Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend.

Senate Bill 128, created by Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, is a key element in Gov. Bill Walker’s comprehensive plan to erase Alaska’s state deficit through spending cuts and new revenue.

LEGISLATURE IN BRIEF

JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska Senate has passed legislation aimed at helping stabilize an individual health insurance market that’s been plagued by rising rates and, starting next year, will be down to one insurer.

Under the bill, claims for high-cost conditions would be ceded to a high-risk pool funded by a premium tax paid to the state by insurance companies. The bill anticipates $55 million being available.

The director of Alaska’s Division of Insurance, Lori Wing-Heier, said that money currently goes to the state’s general fund.

Local growers keep it fresh and affordable

I used to work in a small South American country for Peace Corps. I worked with a group of rural farmers who worked together to raise tomatoes commercially. 

Their carefully picked tomatoes were loaded onto a big market truck that they waved down as it went by on the road. The driver would pay them 2,000 guaranies and sell the tomatoes for 3,000 in the capital. Customers in the city would pay 4,000. Some entrepreneurs would then load up leftover tomatoes and drive them out to little stores in the countryside.

Lawmakers keep oil tax loophole

The Alaska Legislature has approved a cut to oil and gas drilling subsidies that promises millions in savings but fails to close a loophole that led to an explosion in the amount the state owes oil companies.

House Bill 247 preserves a “net operating loss” tax credit intended for smaller oil producers who are developing a new oil field and losing money in the process. At low oil prices, however, the credit can be used by the North Slope giants that produce the bulk of Alaska’s oil, reducing their production tax rate to zero.

Pratt Museum director resigns for family reasons

The Pratt Museum announced on Tuesday that executive director Diane Converse has resigned to focus on family obligations.

“It has been an honor to serve as the Pratt Museum’s director/CEO since the fall of 2009,” Converse said in a statement in the museum’s newsletter. “Balancing life and work can be a challenge. I have decided that for me the balance must tip to life and family.”

Haven House hires new director

The South Peninsula Haven House Board of Directors announced last Monday that it has named Melissa (Missi) White as its new executive director effective June 1.

White brings a wealth of collaborative experiences to Haven House reflecting two decades of military service, academic excellence and volunteer out-reach, said board president Terry Thompson.

New doctor specializes in women’s health

South Peninsula Hospital and Homer Medical Center announce the full-time obstetrics and gynecology practice of Katie Ostrom, M.D. 

Dr. Ostrom attended Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and completed her residency at the University of New Mexico. She practiced for the last 10 years in Anchorage, most recently at Alaska Women’s Health, and has offered regularly scheduled clinics in Homer for the last several years. Ostrom’s husband and two children join her in the move to Homer. 

Murkowski holds field hearing to discuss conflicts on Kenai Peninsula

KENAI — Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, visited Kenai Tuesday to hold a field hearing for the Senate Resources Committee on how federal management conflicts with local management on the Kenai Peninsula. 

Wildfire management drove much of the conversation, but federal land management that limits access to fishing and hunting were also major points.

Farmers Market 80 different plants, veggies on opening day

By KYRA WAGNER

FOR THE HOMER NEWS

The Homer Farmers Market was bustling on opening day. The sun was shining, marimbas were playing and the booths were all full. The Homer Farmers Market is such an icon of this town that it may seem like it has been here forever. (For photos of opening day, see page 2.)

But how it has grown. I’m not necessarily talking about how it has a good 40 full booths practically every weekend through the summer or how full the parking lot is.

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