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    Alaska officials field COVID questions on pregnancy, fetal cell lines, herd immunity & return to normalcy

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    Should pregnant or nursing moms get the COVID-19 vaccine? Were vaccines developed using cells from aborted babies? How long until Alaska reaches herd immunity? When can we return to normal? These were just some of the questions that a team from Alaska’s health department answered during a Feb. 18 online conference with journalists.

    SHOULD PREGNANT WOMEN TAKE THE VACCINE?

    The Watchman asked about guidelines for health professionals in the UK, which recommend that pregnant women do not get the Pfizer COVID vaccine. The regulation further advises that women should avoid becoming pregnant for the first two months after receiving this vaccine, and that the vaccine should not be used while breast feeding.

    Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen

    Public health official, Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen responded, saying that the CDC and FDA have concluded that there is no higher risk associated with pregnant women or nursing moms getting the COVID vaccine. She noted that pregnant and lactating women were not included in clinical trials for the vaccines, but some women did become pregnant during the trials. The CDC, she said, maintains that pregnant women should not be excluded from vaccinations, but they might want to discuss the risks with their doctors.

    Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink added that the CDC and FDA are the agencies who have authority over vaccine safety.

    “We’re here to share information and share what’s happening over there but we are not having separate guidance or doing any kind of separate analysis of vaccine safety or efficacy,” she said.

    State Epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin cited a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association which admits that there is very little data regarding side effects of COVID vaccines in pregnant women, unborn babies or nursing infants. Despite limited data, the article does not advocate delaying vaccines in pregnant or nursing mothers but admits that much is unknown. It also suggests that pregnant women who contract COVID may have more severe reactions to the virus than others.

    McLaughlin highlighted a recent statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM). These groups directly contradict advice from the World Health Organization which says COVID-19 vaccines should be withheld from pregnant women unless they have a high risk of exposure to the virus.

    Both the ACOG and SMFM claim COVID vaccines “should not be withheld from pregnant individuals.” These organizations also unsuccessfully pushed to include pregnant women in the clinical vaccine trials.

    USE OF CELLS FROM ABORTED BABIES

    It has been widely documented that Moderna vaccine creators used a cell line from an aborted baby in the design, research and testing phases of its vaccine, and that Pfizer used these same cell lines in its own testing phase.

    Dr. Zink was asked to clarify a statement she made earlier this month in which she claimed that COVID vaccines in Alaska do not contain fetal material.

    “Both of the vaccines did use cells in the initial phases of it,” she said, adding that “those are cell lines from a long time ago, but they did use cells to do the initial research but not the production. So, I think it’s important to understand the difference.”

    The cells are from a line called HEK-293, which came from an aborted baby in 1973. These cells were then used to create new cells which many researchers now used in vaccine testing and design. Many pro-life advocates have raised ethical concerns about researchers using cells derived from aborted babies to create vaccines. Dr. Ohlsen acknowledged this controversy.

    “There have been a variety of opinions that are tailored to specific beliefs,” she said. “So, it may be helpful for those who are looking to see how vaccines fit into a particular belief system to read more about commentary within that belief system.”

    HOW MANY ALASKANS ARE IMMUNE TO COVID?

    Dr. McLaughlin spoke about how many Alaskans have achieved immunity to the virus, either through vaccination or natural exposure.

    He highlighted a recent interview with Dr. Paul Offit, a nationally renowned vaccinologist in Philadelphia, who estimated that there may be about a third of the U.S. population that has been exposed to COVID, and another five-plus percent who have been vaccinated.

    “We don’t really know what that herd immunity threshold is.”

    Dr. Joe McLaughlin

    “So, his guesstimate was upwards of 40% of the population in the U.S. has had some exposure to either the virus or the vaccine – leading to at least partial immunity,” McLaughlin said. “I would say in Alaska we are probably pretty similar to that.”

    He added: “If you look at our rates, in Alaska they are about on par with the average. They might be a little below the national average, but not by much in terms of case rates. Then, if you look at our vaccination coverage rates, we are the highest in the nation.”

    WHEN WILL WE ACHIEVE HERD IMMUNITY AND RETURN TO NORMAL?

    With COVID case counts and infection rates dropping in Alaska and nationally, the question about when Alaskans can return to normal was raised by the Watchman. Is there a threshold we are trying to achieve before returning to pre-pandemic social interactions?

    Dr. Joe McLaughlin talks about what it would take for Alaskans to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19.

    McLaughlin said this raises the herd immunity question – that point at which a large enough proportion of the population has obtained immunity to the virus so that it will peter out without having to social distance and mask.

    “We don’t really know what that herd immunity threshold is,” he admitted. “Early on we were thinking it would be somewhere around 60 to 65 percent, something like that. Now with these new emerging variants (of the virus), like the B117 that are more transmissible than the prior strains, you’re seeing that herd immunity threshold kind of get bumped up when people are discussing this – maybe in the 70 or even 80 percentage range.”

    “I think what normal is, is different to everyone, and I think there’s some things that won’t change.”

    Dr. Anne Zink

    McLaughlin added that “a large proportion of the population has been infected with the virus. So, we want to get that immunity level up in the population to the point where we’re going to see a natural dying out of the infection in the absence of community mitigation strategies.”

    Dr. Zink had a slightly different take when it comes to returning to pre-pandemic activity.

    “I think what normal is, is different to everyone, and I think there’s some things that won’t change,” she suggested. In particular, Zink said she will remain “much more cautious” when it comes to wearing masks in the emergency department to protect her patients. “So, I hope that in some ways we continue to learn from this experience and those things won’t change.”

    For others, “normal” life might be merely being able to see loved ones again, she suggested.

    “I was on with seniors and they said it was the first time they had seen their grandkids since now they were fully vaccinated, and they felt like that risk benefit was worth it for them, and that was life back to normal for them,” Zink said. “So, I think it’s going to look different for different people at different times. It’s going to depend on herd immunity. It’s going to depend on world immunization. It’s going to depend on the variants and what happens moving forward. All those things are going to be factors moving forward, but I hope we continue to learn from it.”

    MONITORING ADVERSE REACTIONS TO COVID VACCINES

    The Watchman has published two reports on adverse reactions and deaths among Alaskans following COVID vaccines. This data came from the CDC’s reporting system called VAERS. State health officials were asked whether Alaska monitors adverse reactions on a statewide level, apart from relying solely on the CDC.

    “No, we really don’t,” said public health advisor Kelsey Pistotnik, “This is really a federal effort.”

    Dr. Ohlsen added that Alaska’s information hinges on what she called “reportable conditions.”

    “There are diseases that get reported to us – COVID along with many other diseases,” she said. “But events that happen after vaccines, these are not reportable conditions.”

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

    2.18 > Training Tattle-Tales

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    Alaska School Activities Association (or ASAA) is the governing body that oversees high school sports across the state.

    We recently published a story detailing a new “hate speech” proposal which it will consider at its Feb. 22 and 23rd meeting.

    The basic idea is to prohibit (and ultimately punish) athletes who use certain words which other students find offensive.

    The plan is to impose “severe consequences” on anyone who uses speech or behavior aimed at another person’s sex, gender identification, sexual orientation, race, religion, creed, age, national origin, ancestry, pregnancy, marital state, parental status or disability – IF – those words create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

    Practically speaking officials would be required to immediately eject anyone who runs afoul of the policy. If a ref fails to hear an offending comment, the students are urged to quickly alert their coaches, point out the person who belittled them, and recount exactly what they found hurtful.

    The proposal then instructs officials, coaches and administrators to investigate the incident. Any student deemed guilty would be banned from competition until they were properly reformed via a training course on how to refrain from offending others.

    So, what’s the problem here?

    First, the ASAA plan is extremely vague. How exactly are students to know whether someone will be “substantially” triggered, intimidated or offended by a reference to one of the protected classifications?

    It’s also arbitrary – banning comments about certain characteristics like sexual orientation, gender identity and national origin – but offering no similar protections for students who may feel self-conscious about their weight or some other bodily characteristic.

    Ultimately, this policy draft encourages students to brandish their emotional feelers and tattle at the slightest word or phrase which might be construed as offensive. What was once considered harmless banter between competitors could be severely punished on the altar of wokeness.

    To be clear, all players should be expected to exhibit honor, sportsmanship and respect for opposing players. But this can be accomplished – and has been for generations – without stoking hypersensitivity with boiler-plate identity politics.

    Let’s face it, competition is, at times, intimidating and nerve-wracking. It’s a microcosm and preparation for the arena of life.

    Countless young men and women have learned invaluable lessons from hard fought contests with archrivals. And, yes, sometimes words are exchanged in the heat of battle.

    That doesn’t mean we should allow woke identity politics to poison the playing field by turning every player into a thin-skinned tattletale.

    Bill aimed at securing Alaska’s election integrity gaining traction

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    A bill aimed at addressing concerns about ballot tampering in Alaska has generated considerable interest in the first weeks of the legislative session. Senate Bill 39, introduced by Sen. Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) has already had several hearing with the next scheduled for Feb. 25 in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

    The bill looks to ensure that all mail-in ballots are carefully tracked from the day they are sent out until the moment they are ultimately destroyed after the election.

    “Chain of custody is the foundation of ballot integrity,” Shower said in a statement about his bill. “Once you lose chain of custody, you lose ballot integrity.”

    Shower said he supports mail-in voting, but only with careful tracking, including the post-election destruction of ballots once they have all been accounted for by the Division of Elections.

    “Current practice allows ballots to be destroyed in precinct without central accounting,” Showers observed. “SB 39 requires the director to establish in regulation, best practices for chain of custody protocols, and provides affected parties reasonable notice for ballot handling observation opportunities.”

    His bill also establishes an election offence hotline number that allows Alaskans to report voting irregularities or concerns. The number would be publicly posted at polling places and election privacy envelopes. Likewise, the bill requires election workers to immediately notify the elections director of any irregularities and then allows for an audit of ballots in precinct, immediately after the election.

    Furthermore, the measure prohibits absentee voting via facsimile, which is less secure than mail-in ballots. The bill also aims to secure the state’s voter rolls by repealing automatic voter registration when Alaskans sign up for their PFDs. Shower’s bill requires Alaskans to proactively request to be registered to vote.

    The wide-ranging bill also explicitly states that it is a crime to knowingly collect a ballot from another voter unless they are a caretaker or family member of the voter or engaged in official duties as an election official, postal worker or private commercial delivery service. It clarifies that it is a crime to “intentionally” open or tamper with a sealed ballot certificate and envelope without express authorization from the Division of Elections director.

    “My intent is – through rigorous debate and the committee process – to listen to all sides and make voting, including mail in voting, more secure, so Alaskans can be confident in their election system,” Shower stated.

    TAKING ACTION

    • SB 39, which deals with vote security and regulations, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m. Testimony is by invitation only at this hearing.
    • Click here to read the bill.

    Seward library joins move to push transgender literature

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    The Seward Public Library has joined what has become a nationwide effort among community libraries to promote books normalizing transgenderism and LGBTQ identities in children.

    The Friends of the Seward Library is a nonprofit that partners with the library to promote its mission, programming and materials. On Feb. 17, the group emailed a newsletter featuring and recommending a library book about a three-year-old boy who wants to dress and identify as a girl. “This is How it Always is,” by Laurie Frankel, promotes transgenderism by showing how one family enables their little boy to identify as a girl.

    Deborah Altermatt, an incoming board member for Friends of the Seward Library, wrote the glowing book review about the story of a little boy named Claude who gradually comes to grips with identifying as a girl named “Poppy.” The book, which is available to check out at the library, portrays Poppy’s family as progressive, openminded heroes for enabling his transformation to the opposite sex.

    Altermatt’s book review notes that Claude’s parents eventually send him on a medical mission to Thailand.

    “It is there that Claude/Poppy learns about Buddhism and that by following the ‘middle way,’ she will be her true self,” Altermatt writes. “There are other relationships in the story that are poignant and provide more depth to the story, but the relationship between Claude and Poppy is one of interest to the reader.  To understand how one person is pulled between two identities, and then how to become one, is a story of learning to love one’s self.”

    Altermatt highlights a pivotal quote from the book which states: “If you told your own story, you got to pick your ending … if you made yourself up, you got to be exactly who you knew yourself to be.”

    Like libraries across the nation, Alaska’s are increasingly being harnessed to market books, activities and events that affirm controversial notions about human sexuality. Anchorage and Juneau libraries periodically host Drag Queen Story Hours for children, and their book collections and displays increasingly feature the more radical elements of the LGBTQ agenda.

    The American Library Association, of which most U.S. libraries are members, encourages libraries to become increasingly active in disseminating LGBTQ ideas. The ALA website includes a toolkit to help librarians carry out this strategic campaign. It observes that library materials, programs, and displays related to “sexual orientation and gender identity still cause controversy” and “fear of a challenge may cause some librarians to be deterred” from buying such materials.

    Nevertheless, the ALA reminds librarians that they are key in helping teens and others contemplate sexuality and identity. The ALA recommends that librarians include books featuring minority sexualities, gender identities, and family structures. These books are important, it says, in forming societal perceptions.

    CONTACTS

    • Mary Tougas, president of the Friends of the Seward Library: (907) 362-1225.
    • Valarie Kingsland, Seward Library Director: (907) 224-4008 or vkingsland@cityofseward.net

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

    Proposal would punish Alaska athletes for ‘hate speech’

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    The Alaska School Activities Association, which governs high school sports across the state, is set to vote on a new policy that would impose penalties for “hate speech.” The proposal will be taken up by the board of directors at its Feb. 22-23 meeting.

    According to the policy, it aims to “Institute more severe consequences for an athlete who persists in using hate speech” or harassment. This is defined as “behavior aimed at a person’s sex, gender identification, race, religion, creed, age, national origin, ancestry, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, or disability that substantially interferes with a students’ school performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive school environment.”

    The policy does not identify exactly what sort of comments or actions are prohibited, but it deals with more than physical harassment. Students and coaches could also run afoul for verbal and non-verbal acts.

    “When contest officials witness hate speech or an act of harassment, the alleged offender shall be penalized by an IMMEDIATE EJECTION,” the proposed policy states. Additionally, the student will be required to complete the NFHS Learn Sportsmanship course.

    If a referee fails to notice the harassment, the policy encourages students to tell their coach as quickly as possible. This includes pointing out the offending players, their jersey numbers and exactly what was said. Coaches must then immediately tell the official.

    “The official will then inform the other head coach of the accusation,” the policy states. “The official shall also notify ASAA with 24 hours of ALL situations in which hate speech or harassment was suspected.”

    School administrators are required to meet with alleged offenders and victims and investigate the situation. If the alleged offender admits to saying the comment, he or she would be ineligible to compete until completing the sportsmanship course.

    TAKING ACTION

    • To provide public comment during ASAA Board meetings, all comments must be first emailed to board@asaa.org prior to the meeting. Comments during the meeting are limited to three minutes.
    • Click here to see the agenda and timeline for the Feb. 22-23 ASAA Board meeting.
    • Click here to watch or participate in the Feb. 22 ASAA Board meeting.
    • Click here to watch or participate in the Feb. 23 ASAA Board meeting.
    • Click the link below to read the ASAA Hate Speech draft proposal.

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

    A different kind of Civil War

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    War of Ideas

    Last year was a very bad year for Republicans.  No matter how you try to spin the elections, Republicans lost.  Despite a record number of Republican votes for President Trump, he lost.  Blame it on mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, systemic vote counting fraud, computer hacking and/or deliberate falsification of ballots, Republicans turned out in record numbers but still took a beating.

    Let’s recap…  President Trump loses to Sleepy Joe in a fraudulent election.  Republicans lose both Georgia Senate seats, resulting in a 50/50 tie between Republicans and Democrats which gives immense power to Kamala Harris, who is the tie breaker in any evenly-split Senate vote.  While Republicans gained seats in the House of Representatives, Democrats still hold the majority and the Speaker position.  As of January 20, 2021 we have a Democrat President, Democrat House, and Democrat controlled Senate.

    In Alaska, Democrats gained in the State House, now having a solid 19 Democrats/Non-declared seats.  Republicans hold 21 seats, but it appears Democrats may control the majority, as the newly elected Speaker of the House has caucused previously with Democrats and it looks like that playbook is being repeated in 2021.    

    The State Senate fared much better. Republicans hold a solid majority that opens the opportunity to advance a conservative agenda.  Congratulations to Senate President Peter Miccichi for organizing the Senate.

    Future elections will be more challenging for conservatives with the passage of Ballot Measure 2, which creates a circus election process, using a mathematical “add them up and divide by X, we get a winner.”  Not the one that gains the most popular votes, but the one who gains the majority of votes when second, third, fourth, etc., are averaged in.  Talk about a watered down compromise process that allows the mediocre to become elected officials.  No more “one person, one vote.”  Now you get multiple votes to dilute the selection process and elect the person nobody actually wants. 

    Let’s also make sure we continue mail-in ballots so the dead, those no longer living in Alaska, and harvested votes can be counted to determine the winner.  My head is about to explode.  We are facing the crucible on the direction America will proceed and we all should be extremely concerned about the outcome.

    “It’s time to stop the Left’s socialist agenda.”

    America has faced dark days before.  The American Civil War was a test of determination.  That war had clear dividing lines: the North versus the South; slave states against free states; a confederation form of government versus a federation form of government.  Irrespective that the south, as an agricultural based society, never had the industrial capacity to defeat the north, the tensions of the day precluded rational debate and ended in a bloody civil war. 

    History is supposed to teach us lessons.  The Civil War should have taught us that violent conflict is costly and should be avoided unless no other option is available.  There are options to violence.  The United States Constitution provides the peaceful means to change government and lead America to greatness.  But it has to be understood and followed in order to reach a peaceful conclusion.

    “in 2020 we witnessed the Left’s relentless violence…”

    Today we face a different, and potentially more dangerous civil war.  Not a war of armies, but of principles and ideologies.  There are no geographical boundaries.  This is a clash between democracy and socialism.  Political lines have been drawn and hyper-rhetoric is used to ignite passion and primal emotional responses. 

    Will we be a nation of free people where the will of the people controls government or will we become a nation where government controls the people?   Simple choice, but it will be an extremely contentious process.  And in 2020 we witnessed the Left’s relentless violent response to this divide.

    The summer of 2020 was filled with riots pursued by an uber-Left intent on overthrowing the American government.  Make no mistake about it, the Left believes the means (violence) justifies the ends (socialism/communism). 

    There was extreme violence by Antifa, Black Lives Matter and subversive radicals in mostly Democratic controlled cities across America.  We then saw the United States Capitol occupied by an angry mob, organized in advance by Antifa, socialist radicals, and some misguided Trump supporters.    

    As expected, the liberal media blew it out of all proportion.  Six months of riots in America cities, incited by Leftist insurgents, with the media continually characterizing them as “mostly peaceful protests.”  However, that same main-stream media was quick to exploit January 6th as if it were the start of an insurrection.  It wasn’t.

    “The “Silent Majority” must no longer be silent.”

    Joe Biden’s push for gun control, opening the borders to illegal immigrants, killing America’s energy independence, kowtowing to Communist China and Terrorist Iran, economy-crushing climate change regulations, and federal government overreach may yet be the breaking points for freedom loving Americans.

    While this year conservatives took a licking, we still have the best vision for America.  Personal liberties, individual freedom and a strong belief in divine guidance is what has made America the greatest nation ever created.  We can, and we must, fight to restore the greatness of America which we enjoyed a few short months ago under Trump’s presidency.

    This 21st century civil war for the future of America need not be fought on the battlefield; but rather through elections, social media, peaceful demonstrations, and a constant resistance to every effort by the Left to change America into another failed socialist-style Venezuela. The “Silent Majority” must be heard.  We must fight the political fight every day, in every forum, and at every opportunity we have to convince Americans that the freedoms we enjoy under the United States Constitution are inalienable rights that provide each and every one of us the greatest potential for individual achievement of any nation on earth. We must exhaust the Left’s ability to coopt our nation with empty promises, lies, censorship, and government overreach.  We must band together, as was done in 1775 to defend our Constitutional Republic and resist the Left stealing our country from us.  It’s time to stop the Left’s socialist agenda.  We must start electing constitutional conservatives to public office.

    The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Alaska Watchman.

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

    Alaska’s chief justice to face Legislature amid ongoing dispute over abortion funding

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    Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court Joel Bolger will address the full Alaska Legislature on Feb. 17 when he delivers the annual “State of the Judiciary” at 11 a.m. in the Senate Chamber.

    This will be Bolger’s final address to the Legislature as he is set to retire this summer. His pending speech comes after yet another cantankerous year between the three branches of government, and there may be more battles on the horizon.

    Last month, Gov. Mike Dunleavy complied with a Superior Court order that he restore $334,700 which he vetoed from the state courts’ 2020 budget – the exact amount the Supreme Court ordered the state to pay abortionists for killing 805 babies in 2018. The court mandate came in spite of the fact that the Legislature specifically stated that no money from the budget could be used to fund elective abortions.

    Bolger’s address also comes at a time when the Legislature is considering a bill that would grant it power to approve all new judges to the appellate and district courts.

    Additionally, Senate Joint Resolution 2 proposes a constitutional amendment requiring that the Legislature approve all new members selected by the Alaska Bar Association to sit on the Alaska Judicial Council, a powerful seven-member group that decides which applicants a governor can choose from among when appointing judges, including those for the Alaska Supreme Court. This issue could come into play when Bolger retires this summer.

    Another bill, which directly challenges the Alaska Supreme Court in its insistence that the state pay for elective abortions, is Senate Joint Resolution 4. It aims to amend the State Constitution by stating: “To protect human life, nothing in this constitution may be construed to secure or protect a right to an abortion or require the State to fund an abortion.”

    Click here to watch Chief Justice Bolger’s address on Feb. 17 at 11 a.m.

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

    Public testimony unanimously favors changing how Alaska chooses judges

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    Public testimony in a recent Senate Judiciary hearing was unanimously favored altering how Alaska selects appellate and district court judges.

    The Feb. 15 hearing dealt with Senate Bill 14, introduced by Sen. Mike Shower (R-Wasilla). The measure looks to curb the left-leaning Alaska Judicial Council’s power to nix all potential judges who are not to their ideological liking.

    Rather than allowing the seven-member, unelected Judicial Council to continue blocking any conservative who applies to fill a vacancy on the court, Shower’s bill would give the governor more leeway to select someone who may not be favored by the Judicial Council but who is still highly qualified to serve on the bench. The bill also stipulates that new judges are approved by a majority vote of the Alaska Legislature.

    Eleven people testified on Feb. 15, with one person being cut off for refusing to address the topic at hand. Of the remaining participants, all 10 supported Shower’s bill. Comments focused on the fact that SB 14 gives Alaskans a greater say in the selection of judges by empowering elected officials who are directly accountable to voters.

    While SB 14 seeks to reform how appellate and district court judges are selected, it has no impact on how members of the Alaska Supreme Court or Superior Court are chosen. This process is spelled out in the State Constitution, where it stipulates that the Alaska Judicial Council must first approve a candidate before the governor can appoint them. Changing this requires a constitutional amendment.

    In addition of SB 14, Shower has introduced a resolution (SJR 2) to amend the State Constitution so that members of the Alaska Judicial Council are first approved by the State Legislature rather than allowing the Alaska Bar Association to have exclusive power to select four of the seven Judicial Council members. The remaining three members are currently appointed by the governor, but Bar Association members always outnumber the governor’s appointees 4-3.

    Made up of attorneys and judges from across the state, the Bar Association consistently appoints members to the Judicial Council who oppose conservative and constitutionally minded Alaskans who apply to serve on the bench.

    TAKING ACTION

    • Click here to contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

    Feb. 15 hearing to address how Alaska selects judges

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    A bill that would fundamentally change the way Alaska chooses judges for the Court of Appeals and District Court is up for public testimony today, Feb. 15, at 1:30 p.m.

    Introduced by Sen. Mike Shower, Senate Bill 14 would roll back the power of the left-leaning Judicial Council, which currently enjoys the ability to exclude all potential judges not to its liking.

    Shower’s bill does away with the absolute stranglehold the Judicial Council has in nixing any conservative judge from being considered to fill a vacancy on the bench. Rather than limiting all potential nominees to only those hand-picked by the seven-member Judicial Council, Shower wants to give the governor more leeway to choose someone who may not be to the Judicial Council’s liking but is still highly qualified to serve. Any new judge would also be subject to majority approval by the Alaska Legislature.

    SB 14 does not change the way Alaska selects justices for the Supreme Court or Superior Court, as that process is defined in the State Constitution and requires a constitutional amendment to change. The way judges are selected for the Court of Appeals and District Court, however, is subject to the Alaska Legislature, which means the selection process can change with a simple majority vote of the Legislature.

    TAKING ACTION

    • A public hearing is set for SB 14 at 1:30 p.m., Feb. 15, in the Senate Judiciary Committee. To testify, call (907) 563-9085 (from Anchorage), (907) 586-9085 (from Juneau) or (844) 586-9085 (outside Juneau or Anchorage).
    • Click here to contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Watch: Dunleavy releases COVID plan to move Alaska to normalcy

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    Gov. Mike Dunleavy released a new COVID-19 recovery and transition plan that he says will begin moving Alaska to normalcy while managing the virus.

    Click here to watch Gov. Dunleavy’s Feb. 14 address regarding his COVID-19 recovery and transition plan.

    On Feb. 14, Dunleavy issued a directive to all commissioners and state employees to continue following all policies regarding COVID-19 that were in place under the COVID-19 disaster declaration, which expired earlier in the day.

    Over the next several weeks, commissioners will assess which policies are still necessary to keep in place to ease the burden on the public’s interaction with government, and which items the governor should allow to lapse. Dunleavy also issued four health advisories to address general safety, travel and critical infrastructure, as well as the seafood industry.

    “My administration will begin moving Alaska, its economy and our lives forward through this transition and recovery process,” Dunleavy said. “Make no mistake about it, the virus may be with us for some time. But the data shows that the worst is most likely behind us. Alaska’s vaccination plan is one of the most successful in the country and we have faith that the health care system is robust and prepared. My plan can get us there if we continue to keep an eye on the data and, Alaskans continue taking personal responsibility for their health and wellbeing.”

    • Click here to read the new health advisories.
    • Click here to view a video of Gov. Dunleavy laying out his plan.

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.