Mark Sabbatini

State Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, right, listens to an overview of Alaska’s past and projected oil production by Department of Natural Resources Commissioner John Boyle during Kiehl’s first meeting as a member of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Business as usual underway in the Senate

Key committees meetings start with optimistic tone about working with House, governor

State Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, right, listens to an overview of Alaska’s past and projected oil production by Department of Natural Resources Commissioner John Boyle during Kiehl’s first meeting as a member of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
State Rep. Josiah Patkotak, left, an Utqiagvik independent, accepts the gavel from Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom after he’s elected speaker pro tem of the House during the opening day of the 33rd Alaska State Legislature on Tuesday. Patkotak, who has served as president pro tem during a previous stalemate in determining a House majority, is among the members Republicans are trying to lure to join a coalition controlled by their party. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Session starts sans House speaker, smooth in Senate

Temporary House leader elected as another majority stalemate looms; Senate slights its minority.

State Rep. Josiah Patkotak, left, an Utqiagvik independent, accepts the gavel from Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom after he’s elected speaker pro tem of the House during the opening day of the 33rd Alaska State Legislature on Tuesday. Patkotak, who has served as president pro tem during a previous stalemate in determining a House majority, is among the members Republicans are trying to lure to join a coalition controlled by their party. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
New members of the Alaska State Legislature gather in the House chambers for a mock floor session on Friday as part of their orientation for the start of the regular two-year session on Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Yet another suspenseful session starts today

Who will lead the House? Where are the meet-and-greet parties? And other key early-days essentials

New members of the Alaska State Legislature gather in the House chambers for a mock floor session on Friday as part of their orientation for the start of the regular two-year session on Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Chairs await state lawmakers in the House chambers at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday. A total of 14 prefile bills were published during the day in addition to 68 published Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

More do’s and don’ts proposed by pols

Sequels are almost never as grandiose as originals, and such is the case with the second batch of prefile bills from state lawmakers released Friday… Continue reading

Chairs await state lawmakers in the House chambers at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday. A total of 14 prefile bills were published during the day in addition to 68 published Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Lisa X’unyéil Worl, a longtime advocate for education and other issues, asks Juneau’s legislative delegation about the prospects for public broadcasting funding from the state during a town hall meeting Wednesday evening at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School.

Local lawmakers say there are ‘no simple answers’ ahead of session

However, Juneau’s delegation expresses optimism for progress on health, safety and education.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Lisa X’unyéil Worl, a longtime advocate for education and other issues, asks Juneau’s legislative delegation about the prospects for public broadcasting funding from the state during a town hall meeting Wednesday evening at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School.
Members of the Alaska State Legislature introduce themselves before a mock floor session for new lawmakers in the House chambers of the state Capitol on Friday. Most of the 19 new members, the most since 1984, are going through three days of orientation before the session starts Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

‘Freshmen 19’ bring unusual heft to Capitol

Class of incoming lawmakers includes many with legislative experience.

Members of the Alaska State Legislature introduce themselves before a mock floor session for new lawmakers in the House chambers of the state Capitol on Friday. Most of the 19 new members, the most since 1984, are going through three days of orientation before the session starts Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Gov. Mike Dunleavy explains his plan for Alaska to cash in on carbon credits during the unveiling of his proposed state budget for next year Dec. 15 at the Alaska State Capitol. He outlined legislation to enter carbon markets during a press conference Thursday in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire).

Governor previews carbon market bills

Dunleavy outlines legislation for plan he hopes will earn $900 million a year.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy explains his plan for Alaska to cash in on carbon credits during the unveiling of his proposed state budget for next year Dec. 15 at the Alaska State Capitol. He outlined legislation to enter carbon markets during a press conference Thursday in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire).
Geraldine Young / Alaska DOTPF 
The Columbia docks at the terminal in Haines while in service previously. The Alaska Marine Highway vessel, which was taken out of service as a cost-cutting measure in 2019, is scheduled to resume voyages between Bellingham and Southeast Alaska in February while the Matanuska undergoes renovations.

Columbia to resume mainline ferry service next month

Vessel grounded in 2019 to save costs now needed due to extra repairs planned for Matanuska

Geraldine Young / Alaska DOTPF 
The Columbia docks at the terminal in Haines while in service previously. The Alaska Marine Highway vessel, which was taken out of service as a cost-cutting measure in 2019, is scheduled to resume voyages between Bellingham and Southeast Alaska in February while the Matanuska undergoes renovations.
Lisa Phu holds her daughter, Acacia, near a waterfall on a trail just south of Thane in October of 2016.(Courtesy of Lisa Phu)

The story of a lifetime

Longtime reporter Lisa Phu finally unveils family’s escape from genocide in Cambodia in podcast.

Lisa Phu holds her daughter, Acacia, near a waterfall on a trail just south of Thane in October of 2016.(Courtesy of Lisa Phu)
Shawnda O’Brien, the just-departed state Director of the Division of Public Assistance, talks Dec. 27 about the problems that are resulting in months-long backlogs in processing applications for benefits commonly referred to as food stamps. Her departure as director was announced Monday following weeks of widespread media coverage about the backlog that is expected to take additional months to resolve. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Head of state’s troubled food stamps program replaced

Director of the Division of Public Assistance departs in wake of months-long backlog.

Shawnda O’Brien, the just-departed state Director of the Division of Public Assistance, talks Dec. 27 about the problems that are resulting in months-long backlogs in processing applications for benefits commonly referred to as food stamps. Her departure as director was announced Monday following weeks of widespread media coverage about the backlog that is expected to take additional months to resolve. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Lawmakers, staff and other workers inside the The Alaska State Capitol are preparing this week for the upcoming session of the Alaska State Legislature that starts Jan. 17, including the release of the first round of prefile bills published Monday by the Legislative Affairs Agency. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Election changes dominate first round of legislative bills

Ranked choice voting, security are hot topics; state pensions, ‘capital move’ among repeat proposals.

Lawmakers, staff and other workers inside the The Alaska State Capitol are preparing this week for the upcoming session of the Alaska State Legislature that starts Jan. 17, including the release of the first round of prefile bills published Monday by the Legislative Affairs Agency. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Juneau residents register for COVID-19 vaccinations at Centennial Hall in April of 2021. Bartlett Regional Hospital and other city-owned institutions provided virus tests and vaccinations in a multitude of locations during the pandemic, as well as providing at-home tests and coordinating with other entities such as the Alaska Native-owned SEARHC. (Bartlett Regional Hospital)

Study: Juneau’s COVID-19 response a role model for success

Control of hospital and airport, public communication, coordination with tribes cited as key assets

Juneau residents register for COVID-19 vaccinations at Centennial Hall in April of 2021. Bartlett Regional Hospital and other city-owned institutions provided virus tests and vaccinations in a multitude of locations during the pandemic, as well as providing at-home tests and coordinating with other entities such as the Alaska Native-owned SEARHC. (Bartlett Regional Hospital)
Skiers cross the frozen lake in front of the Mendenhall Glacier in December. A proposed expansion of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreational Area by the U.S. Forest Service envisions motorized tour boat access in most alternatives, but the three newest ones based on previous public feedback limit vessels to low-impact electronic access or none. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

New study released for Mendenhall Glacier area development, old concerns raised

Report features 3 alternatives based on earlier public input; 2 public meetings set for this month.

Skiers cross the frozen lake in front of the Mendenhall Glacier in December. A proposed expansion of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreational Area by the U.S. Forest Service envisions motorized tour boat access in most alternatives, but the three newest ones based on previous public feedback limit vessels to low-impact electronic access or none. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
A cycle rickshaw passes the North State Office Building parking garage located on Willoughby Avenue in downtown Juneau in September. A $30 million request to pay for upgrades to the parking garage tied for first on a list of requests for state legislative funding as ranked by Juneau Assembly members. Assembly Member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs said expanding parking there can free up other downtown space for housing and other development, which is a top overall goal of city leaders. The parking upgrade is officially ranked second on the list since a request to further development of the Pederson Hill Subdivision had a higher ranking on last year’s priority list. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City, school district draft legislative priorties

Assembly members rank housing projects high, while school board opts for new tactic of broader goals

A cycle rickshaw passes the North State Office Building parking garage located on Willoughby Avenue in downtown Juneau in September. A $30 million request to pay for upgrades to the parking garage tied for first on a list of requests for state legislative funding as ranked by Juneau Assembly members. Assembly Member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs said expanding parking there can free up other downtown space for housing and other development, which is a top overall goal of city leaders. The parking upgrade is officially ranked second on the list since a request to further development of the Pederson Hill Subdivision had a higher ranking on last year’s priority list. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Cruise passengers walk near the docks in Juneau during the 2022 cruise ship season. Tourism-related industries and transportation had the highest rates of growth in Southeast Alaska last year as the region added 2,400 jobs instead of the 1,400 forecast in 2022, according to this month’s Alaska Economic Trends report. Seafood processing jobs saw the largest decline at 20%. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Southeast employment up 6.5% in ’22, 2.5% more expected in ’23

Record cruise season, construction growth will help post-pandemic recovery continue, state reports.

Cruise passengers walk near the docks in Juneau during the 2022 cruise ship season. Tourism-related industries and transportation had the highest rates of growth in Southeast Alaska last year as the region added 2,400 jobs instead of the 1,400 forecast in 2022, according to this month’s Alaska Economic Trends report. Seafood processing jobs saw the largest decline at 20%. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council’s office in Juneau is where the executive director is facing a challenge from several non-management employees who voted in December to unionize and are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for recognition of that vote by the non-profit conservation organization . (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

SEACC entangled in union dispute

Non-management employees petition NLRB after vote to unionize not recognized by management

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council’s office in Juneau is where the executive director is facing a challenge from several non-management employees who voted in December to unionize and are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for recognition of that vote by the non-profit conservation organization . (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
While a lot about the year-to-come is sure to be a surprise some things, including housing, an impending legislative session and budget-making at all levels of government, among many others are certain to impact Juneau and its residents.  (Moritz Knöringer / Unsplash)

Stories likely to break big in 2023

New housing, federally-funded projects, school leadership changes among items affecting Juneau

While a lot about the year-to-come is sure to be a surprise some things, including housing, an impending legislative session and budget-making at all levels of government, among many others are certain to impact Juneau and its residents.  (Moritz Knöringer / Unsplash)
Juneau’s biggest news stories of 2022 ranged from historic victories (and Celebrations) to severe struggles due to shortages of workers and housing. Virtually all were connected by overlapping factors to other top stories. (Juneau Empire staff)

The stories that shaped our 2022

Unprecedented elections, record rain and much more.

Juneau’s biggest news stories of 2022 ranged from historic victories (and Celebrations) to severe struggles due to shortages of workers and housing. Virtually all were connected by overlapping factors to other top stories. (Juneau Empire staff)
Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire 
Fireworks from the finale of Juneau’s Fourth of July celebration light up the sky earlier this year. No such official celebration is planned New Year’s Eve, and both restrictions on personal fireworks use and stormy winter weather will mean a darker hue to the celebrations welcoming in the year 2023.

Weather drops the ball on New Year’s Eve

Personal fireworks again available for limited locations, but wet and windy night may dampen spirits

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire 
Fireworks from the finale of Juneau’s Fourth of July celebration light up the sky earlier this year. No such official celebration is planned New Year’s Eve, and both restrictions on personal fireworks use and stormy winter weather will mean a darker hue to the celebrations welcoming in the year 2023.
Traffic passes by Fred Meyer in Juneau in November 2019. Many Juneau residents may need — or at least want — to get their prescriptions somewhere other than Fred Meyer as of Jan. 1, since its parent company Kroger has announced the termination of an agreement with a pharmacy benefit manager that works with insurers such as Cigna and Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Insured prescriptions from Fred Meyer may end for many Jan. 1

Corporate parent severing contract with company that reimburses city, military, other local workers

Traffic passes by Fred Meyer in Juneau in November 2019. Many Juneau residents may need — or at least want — to get their prescriptions somewhere other than Fred Meyer as of Jan. 1, since its parent company Kroger has announced the termination of an agreement with a pharmacy benefit manager that works with insurers such as Cigna and Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)