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Alaska governor eyes possible pardons in Fairbanks 4 case

Dec 15, 2015 -- 4:30pm
- ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska's governor is considering granting pardons to four men accused in the 1997 death of a teenager, the first time a pardon would be issued in nearly a decade. Alaska's executive clemency process has not been used since the law was changed eight years ago in response to a controversial pardon by then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. Under state law, Alaska governors are authorized to grant pardons, reprieves and commutations of sentences. The law that was signed by Murkowski's successor, Sarah Palin, requires the governor to first notify the state parole board for investigation. The board must then notify various entities, including victims of certain crimes, such as domestic violence and first-degree arson. It also requires that the process last at least 120 days.

Anchorage police ID man crushed to death at rental firm

Dec 15, 2015 -- 4:15pm
- ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Anchorage police have identified the man who was crushed to death by a piece of heavy equipment. Police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro says in a Tuesday email to The Associated Press that the victim has been identified as 57-year-old Thomas Heit. Heit died in the early Monday afternoon accident at Construction Machinery Industrial in Anchorage. Castro says police don't have additional information to release, and the Occupational and Health Administration will investigate. The equipment rental firm's chief executive officer and president, Ken Gerondale (JER'-on-dale), declined comment when reached by the AP on Tuesday.

Alaska graduation rate among lowest in the country

Dec 15, 2015 -- 4:00pm
- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Data released by the U.S. Department of Education shows Alaska has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country. Only the District of Columbia, New Mexico and Nevada had lower graduation rates during the 2013-14 school year than Alaska, whose graduation rate was 71.1 percent. Federal data shows Alaska's rate has hovered around 70 percent since at least 2010-2011. Nationally, the graduation rate was 82.3 percent. Brian Laurent with Alaska's education department says the state's preliminary graduation rate for 2014-2015 is 75.6 percent. He says that's when the state no longer required students to take a high school exit exam to get a diploma. State lawmakers in 2014 approved replacing the exam with a requirement that students take a college or career readiness test.

Ex-Corrections head asked to aid leadership transition

Dec 14, 2015 -- 4:00pm
- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The state has asked a former Corrections head to help with the transition in the department's leadership after Gov. Bill Walker asked that he resign as commissioner. Walker spokeswoman Katie Marquette said Ron Taylor was asked last month to work for up to 90 days in a special project position at the same salary level as commissioner. She said Taylor can provide historical context and insight on department logistics to the acting commissioner and others. Asked if this was typical, Marquette called this a unique circumstance and said Walker felt it was important to ensure a smooth transition. An administrative review of the department following the deaths of several inmates found outdated policies and cases of lax or informal consequences for apparent employee misconduct. Walker appointed Taylor commissioner in January.

Gov. Walker's income tax plan faces uphill battle

Dec 14, 2015 -- 3:45pm
- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - If Gov. Bill Walker gets his way, Alaskans will be chipping in to help reduce the state's estimated $3.5 billion budget deficit. Walker has proposed sweeping changes, including instituting an income tax for the first time in 35 years. The entire package is likely to be a tough sell. House Finance Committee co-chair Steve Thompson said he doesn't want to ask Alaskans to pay an income tax unless it's absolutely necessary. Walker has suggested using the fund that provides annual checks to Alaskans to generate cash to help finance state government. His proposal would change how dividends are calculated, putting the checks at about $1,000 in the near future. The dividend over its lifetime has averaged about $1,150.

Child dies, 3 people injured in Anchorage home fire

Dec 14, 2015 -- 3:30pm
- ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A child died in an early morning fire over the weekend in Anchorage. KTUU-television reports 19 Anchorage Fire Department units responded to calls that came in around 1 a.m. Saturday for a fire in a mobile home off Boniface Parkway in east Anchorage. Battalion Chief Mike Davidson says three minors and one adult were trapped in the burning home when firefighters arrived. The other three people in the home were transported to a hospital. The cause is under investigation.
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