James Brooks

Job losses appear to be slowing across state

Alaska’s unemployment rate improved slightly in June, but detailed statistics show job losses continuing. According to figures from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce… Continue reading

Evacuees gather at Kodiak High School in Kodiak on Tuesday, Jan 23, after an earthquake and tsunami alert. A powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night Tuesday after a cellphone alert warned that a tsunami could smash into the state’s southern coast and western Canada. (Grigore Ciubotaru via Associated Press)

Shaken System: Alaska’s disaster warning program has critical flaws, documents reveal

On the night of Jan. 23, Alaskans across the Gulf Coast were awakened by one of the most significant earthquakes to hit Alaska since the… Continue reading

Evacuees gather at Kodiak High School in Kodiak on Tuesday, Jan 23, after an earthquake and tsunami alert. A powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night Tuesday after a cellphone alert warned that a tsunami could smash into the state’s southern coast and western Canada. (Grigore Ciubotaru via Associated Press)
The Alaska Department of Labor building is seen in 2015. (Juneau Empire file)

Alaska job losses continue as recession enters third year

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped a statistically insignificant 0.1 percent between April and May, according to preliminary figures from the Alaska Department of Labor,… Continue reading

The Alaska Department of Labor building is seen in 2015. (Juneau Empire file)
Alaska Legislature adjourns after passing $10.4 billion operating budget

Alaska Legislature adjourns after passing $10.4 billion operating budget

The Alaska Legislature adjourned its 2018 session just before 2 a.m. Sunday morning after passing a $10.4 billion state operating budget that funds ferries, health… Continue reading

Alaska Legislature adjourns after passing $10.4 billion operating budget
James Brooks/Juneau Empire Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna (left), receives a hug from Emily Nenon, Alaska government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The action network was a major supporter of Senate Bill 63, and the pair were celebrating the passage of SB 63 on Saturday, May 12.

Alaska Legislature bans smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places

After six years of work, the Alaska Legislature on Saturday afternoon approved a statewide ban on smoking in most public places across Alaska. Senate Bill… Continue reading

James Brooks/Juneau Empire Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna (left), receives a hug from Emily Nenon, Alaska government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The action network was a major supporter of Senate Bill 63, and the pair were celebrating the passage of SB 63 on Saturday, May 12.
Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, signs the conference committee report on Senate Bill 26 on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (James Brooks

Alaska Legislature passes landmark bill spending Permanent Fund

In a pair of landmark votes Tuesday, the Alaska Legislature agreed to harness the Alaska Permanent Fund to the needs of state government. In separate… Continue reading

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, signs the conference committee report on Senate Bill 26 on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (James Brooks
Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, chair of the Legislative Council Committee, asks for a cut to lawmaker per diem payments by 75 percent at the Capitol on Monday, April 23, 2018. (Michael Penn

Outgoing Juneau lawmaker’s idea to cut lawmakers’ pay swiftly rejected

Members of the Alaska Legislature rejected a proposed pay cut late Monday, saying they didn’t have time to adequately consider the idea from Rep. Sam… Continue reading

Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, chair of the Legislative Council Committee, asks for a cut to lawmaker per diem payments by 75 percent at the Capitol on Monday, April 23, 2018. (Michael Penn
Michael Penn

Fight against derelict boats may cost boat owners

To help harbormasters identify and clean up derelict boats, the Alaska Legislature is considering a new fee on boats longer than 24 feet. The Alaska… Continue reading

Michael Penn
Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, discusses House Bill 25 on Monday, April 9, 2018 on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives. (James Brooks

Alaska House votes to boost access to birth control

After three years of work, the Alaska House of Representatives on Monday voted 21-17 to approve a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe up… Continue reading

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, discusses House Bill 25 on Monday, April 9, 2018 on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives. (James Brooks
Members of the House of Representatives watch the vote on the state’s operating budget bill at the Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018. The House passed the bill along caucus lines. (Michael Penn

Alaska House approves $11.5 billion budget, sends it to Senate

With a 21-19 vote on Monday afternoon, the Alaska House of Representatives approved a $11.5 billion state operating budget and forwarded it to the Alaska… Continue reading

Members of the House of Representatives watch the vote on the state’s operating budget bill at the Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018. The House passed the bill along caucus lines. (Michael Penn
From left to right, Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome; Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer; David Teal of the Legislative Finance Division; Gov. Bill Walker; Neil Steininger of the Office of Management and Budget; Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River; and Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel are seen at the signing ceremony for House Bill 321 on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in the governor’s cabinet room of the Alaska State Capitol. (Drew Cason

Gov. Bill Walker signs ‘fast-track’ budget bill to avert shutdown of ferries, Medicaid

Gov. Bill Walker averted an impending shutdown of the Alaska Marine Highway System and the state’s Medicaid health insurance program on Tuesday by signing a… Continue reading

From left to right, Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome; Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer; David Teal of the Legislative Finance Division; Gov. Bill Walker; Neil Steininger of the Office of Management and Budget; Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River; and Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel are seen at the signing ceremony for House Bill 321 on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in the governor’s cabinet room of the Alaska State Capitol. (Drew Cason
123rf.com Stock Photo

Legislature passes insurance bill amid warnings of higher costs for the elderly, poor

The Alaska Legislature has approved a measure that minority Senate Democrats say will result in higher auto insurance costs for rural Alaskans, racial minorities, the… Continue reading

123rf.com Stock Photo
Juneau Empire file photo The Alaska State Capitol in Juneau.

Permanent Fund spending is this year’s snarl in the Alaska Legislature

The Nenana Ice Classic bills itself as Alaska’s favorite guessing game. This year, that honor will go to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. The state… Continue reading

Juneau Empire file photo The Alaska State Capitol in Juneau.

Alaska House votes to legalize hemp farming

The Alaska House of Representatives has voted unanimously to legalize hemp farming in Alaska, a move that puts the 49th state on track to become… Continue reading

Prosecutors consider charges against former Rep. Fansler

Bethel Democrats have suggested three candidates to fill the seat in the Alaska House of Representatives vacated by Zach Fansler, a Democrat from Bethel who… Continue reading

Budget cuts hit prosecutors hard

To see how state budget cuts are affecting Alaska’s legal system, head to Juneau’s courthouse and search the court calendar for misdemeanor drug crimes. You’ll… Continue reading

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, center, leaves the House chambers with Rep. Sam Kito, D-Juneau, left, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, after holding a short technical session at the Capitol on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. The Alaska Senate on Friday approved a constitutionally problematic criminal justice reform bill, then adjourned the fourth special session of the 30th Alaska Legislature. (Michael Penn

Legislature’s special session lives in limbo without legislators

The Alaska Legislature’s special session will continue — without most legislators. On Monday, the Alaska House of Representatives failed to adjourn the ongoing fourth special… Continue reading

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, center, leaves the House chambers with Rep. Sam Kito, D-Juneau, left, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, after holding a short technical session at the Capitol on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. The Alaska Senate on Friday approved a constitutionally problematic criminal justice reform bill, then adjourned the fourth special session of the 30th Alaska Legislature. (Michael Penn

Alcohol board still allows ‘fun’ at distilleries and breweries

Alaska’s alcohol control board declined to ban distilleries and breweries from hosting fundraisers and special events, but the board did vote to advance a proposal… Continue reading

Rep. George Rauscher, R-Palmer, left, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, center, and Rep. Jason Grenn, NA-Anchorage, greet each other on the first day of the fourth Special Session of the 30th Alaska Legisture on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Michael Penn

As special session starts, House puts criminal justice bill on fast track

It started slowly, but the fourth special session of the 30th Alaska Legislature appeared to be on a fast track by the end of its… Continue reading

Rep. George Rauscher, R-Palmer, left, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, center, and Rep. Jason Grenn, NA-Anchorage, greet each other on the first day of the fourth Special Session of the 30th Alaska Legisture on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Michael Penn

State puts Taku ferry up for sale

JUNEAU — The Alaska Marine Highway is beginning the long process of selling the ferry Taku. On Jan. 30, the state ferry system announced that… Continue reading