5 things to know about Alaska politics: Marijuana registrations, mining jobs and free Covid tests | Alaska News
A proposal to make employment background checks easier for people with past marijuana offenses is being considered by state lawmakers.
An industrial mining company promises to bring thousands of jobs to Alaska with plans to produce the minerals needed for the technology. The only problem? The jobs are in the Arctic.
Alaskans are struggling to get free Covid tests that the White House has pledged to send to any American who requests them. Representative Don Young is here to help.
There’s more news in “Five Things to Know About Alaskan Politics.”
Court View Marijuana Convictions
Alaska was one of the first US states to legalize marijuana. But it is among the last states to decriminalize cannabis to whitewash people with criminal records for simple possession.
A bill before the Alaska Legislature would take the first steps to changing that. House Bill 246 could affect thousands of old cases involving arrests and/or convictions. The bill, which is being discussed in committee, would protect simple possession convictions from Court View, an online search engine.
Job seekers could also file a request to have their records removed from background checks by potential employers. Petitions would be made through the Department of Public Security. The bill may benefit from early bipartisan support.
“I have not reviewed the details of HB 246, but limiting public access to the records of those who were convicted of breaking a law before that law was repealed is a simple matter of fairness and forgiveness,” said Rep. Mike Prax, a Republican from the North Pole.
Rep. Adam Wool, a Democrat from Fairbanks, said in an email that he, too, would likely support the legislation.
Simple possession of marijuana involved charges for having small amounts of cannabis for personal use, prior to state decriminalization.
“There are people who have simple beliefs, but as times have changed and society has changed, those beliefs prevent them from becoming a productive member of society and establishing their reputation,” the Democratic representative said. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, sponsor of the bill. .
A mining promoter promises 3,000 jobs
The United States is not a major producer of any of the metals used in the technology. But some Alaskan mining companies are working to change that.
With a budget of $28.5 million, Ambler Metals is launching engineering plans for copper, zinc, gold and silver mining in Arctic Alaska. Ambler Metals said the proposed Ambler mining district contains the minerals used for smart devices and green technologies like solar panels.
Shane Lasley, writing for Mining News, believes 2022 will be a game-changer for Ambler’s proposed surface mining in northwest Alaska. The company, which is beginning the permitting process, plans to bring 3,000 jobs to the state for the development of the mining district and a 200-mile access road.
The mining operator would become Alaska’s second largest employer behind Providence Health, if plans go ahead. Governor Mike Dunleavy toured the area, met with community leaders and worked with the developer to promote the mining district and the economic growth it would bring to the area and the state as a whole.
Your free Covid test is in the mail. May be.
U.S. Representative Don Young responded to questions and concerns from Alaskans this week as he tried to get free Covid test kits promised by the White House to be delivered to their homes.
Young sent a letter to the White House Covid Response Team highlighting Alaska’s unique environment and asking for answers.
Alaskans with outdoor mailboxes in sub-zero temperatures worry about the accuracy of mail-order tests, which must be temperature-controlled at 36 degrees Fahrenheit to work. Residents with post office boxes or in apartment complexes in rural areas have expressed concerns about getting the kits.
“I write with urgent questions posed to me by Alaskans concerned about the recent deployment of COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits through the United States Postal Service (USPS),” Young wrote. “Access to rapid test kits continues to be of significant importance.”
Senator Sullivan’s warnings about Ukraine and Taiwan
Senator Dan Sullivan this week criticized President Joe Biden for his statement on US military strategy in Ukraine.
“Mr. President, weakness and inconsistency are provocative. You flaunt both,” Sullivan said on social media, after Biden indicated that the US response to a Russian invasion would be conditional.
“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion,” Biden told a reporter during a press conference that was broadcast live to a global audience.
“Now is not the time to invite Vladimir Putin to undertake ‘minor incursions’ into Ukraine. This dictator will probably tell you about it,” Sullivan posted on Twitter.
Sullivan is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading critic of Biden’s foreign policy.
The senator also called on Congress this week to impose sanctions on China if its military invades Taiwan.
Sullivan introduced legislation called the STAND with Taiwan Act that targets China for sanctions.
The STAND with Taiwan Act would prohibit US banks and other financial firms from investing in any Chinese company or organization with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
The bill would also stop imports of certain goods “extracted, produced or manufactured wholly or in part in the People’s Republic of China.” China is the world’s largest producer of coal, steel, aluminum, rare earths, lead, zinc, tin, magnesium, tungsten and other metallic minerals.
In a speech to the Senate, Sullivan warned that the security of the Western Pacific region is at risk if China takes control of Taiwan since the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Yukon River salmon fishing and disaster relief
Disaster declarations were approved Friday for the Yukon River and seven other fisheries in Alaska.
The declarations mean that Alaska’s fisheries are eligible for federal assistance through NOAA. Alaska’s delegation to Congress welcomed the news.
“Alaska’s fisheries are economic and sustenance lifelines for individuals and communities in our state,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.
The money will be distributed to fishermen, their crews, seafood processors and researchers in the affected regions. The amounts are yet to be determined.
Senator Dan Sullivan thanked Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo for approving disaster relief.
“The past two years have been difficult for Alaska’s fisheries, causing immense pain to our hard-working fishing communities,” Rep. Don Young said.