James Brooks

James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected]

State sales tax, envisioned as part of long-term plan, gets first hearing in Alaska Capitol

By: - March 30, 2023

A 2% statewide sales tax proposed by Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, received its first legislative hearing Wednesday night, with its sponsor saying he envisions it as a component of a long-term plan to bring state spending and revenue into balance. Other components of that plan, including a tougher state spending cap and a new formula […]

Alaska House prepares to block legislative pay increase, but top senators say they’re uninterested

By: - March 30, 2023

As soon as Friday, the Alaska House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would block planned raises for state legislators and top members of the executive branch. Passage of the bill is expected — members of the House’s coalition majority and multipartisan minority caucuses have already expressed their support of the idea — […]

Alaska House committee removes funding for attorney assigned to help parents with school disputes

By: - March 29, 2023

The Alaska House Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 6-5 against a request by Gov. Mike Dunleavy for a state attorney intended to work as an advocate for parents who have disputes with their local school districts. State legislators who voted to eliminate the position said it would encourage lawsuits against local school districts. “I don’t […]

Alaska Legislature votes to oppose National Park Service hunting rule that forbids bear baiting

By: - March 28, 2023

The Alaska Legislature has voted to oppose a new National Park Service rule that could limit some forms of hunting in federal parks and preserves.  The Alaska Senate approved House Joint Resolution 10 in an 18-2 vote on Monday, an act that finalizes the nonbinding letter of opposition. The Alaska House previously voted 31-5 to […]

Committee axes funding for Alaska’s effort to take over a federal wetlands permitting program

By: - March 28, 2023

The Alaska House Finance Committee voted Monday to remove the state’s planned takeover of a federal wetlands program from its budget proposal and redirect the planned funding to the education program Head Start. The 6-5 vote came as the committee opened debate on more than 80 amendments to a proposed state budget for the fiscal […]

Fast-track budget bill, intended to help food-stamp program, speeds through Alaska Legislature

By: - March 27, 2023

The Alaska Legislature has passed a fast-track budget bill intended to immediately address problems with the state’s food-aid program for poor Alaskans and other immediate concerns. House Bill 79, proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, is intended to address the food-aid problem. It transfers $3.1 million from the state’s Medicaid program to the Division of Public […]

Alaska’s occupational licensing division staggers under its workload

By: - March 27, 2023

After waiting six months for a license to operate, an Anchorage psychologist asked Senate Majority Leader Cathy Giessel for help. But when the Anchorage Republican called the licensing office, she was greeted by voicemail. The person in charge of answering the phones had quit and couldn’t be replaced. “Professional licenses are required to get people […]

Alaska legislators prepare to talk taxes after grim new oil revenue forecast

By: - March 25, 2023

The Alaska Legislature is preparing to examine two new tax proposals after a state revenue forecast showed significant long-term budget deficits even with a sharply reduced Permanent Fund dividend. One proposal, introduced Friday by Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, would cut a popular oil production tax credit and close what he describes as a loophole in […]

After seven years, Alaska Legislature considers no longer monitoring veterinarians’ opioid prescriptions

By: - March 23, 2023

Seven years ago, at the urging of then-Gov. Bill Walker, the Alaska Legislature passed a sweeping bill intended to limit the abuse of prescription opioid drugs.  Now, lawmakers are preparing to repeal a portion of that bill at the request of state veterinarians who say the bill went too far.  The veterinarians are asking to […]

Alaska legislators fail to block pay hike, but additional action is planned to stop it

By: - March 23, 2023

Alaska legislators declined to take action Wednesday in order to block a prospective pay raise for themselves and leading members of the executive branch. Without action, lawmakers will see their salaries rise by 67% — to $84,000 per year — starting Jan. 1. The salary of the governor, lieutenant governor and commissioners in charge of […]

From left to right, House Majority Leader Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River; Speaker of the House Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla; and Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla; listen to House Clerk Crys Jones during a break in the session of the Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Alaska House votes more funding to fix food-stamp crisis, prevent budget trouble

By: - March 22, 2023

The Alaska House of Representatives voted 38-1 on Wednesday to approve a fast-moving budget bill that spends as much as $365 million to cover a shortfall in state revenue caused by lower-than-expected oil prices. The bill also includes $6.8 million to immediately address a crisis in the state’s food-stamp program. Staffing shortages have created huge […]

The Alaska House Education Committee is seen on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

K-12 funding increase takes first step forward in Alaska House

By: - March 22, 2023

The Alaska House Education Committee voted 5-2 Wednesday morning to raise the amount Alaska pays K-12 schools per student, a figure known as the base student allocation.  The decision followed five hours of public testimony — almost entirely in favor of the idea — Tuesday night in the Capitol. Advocates for public schools say an […]