Alaska Legislature

Sen. Peter Micciche's attempt to update the state's alcohol laws is starting yet another round through the legislative process. Will 2021 be the year it makes it to the finish line? Stay tuned to find out.
Plus, Bill chats with Lee Ellis, head of brewery operations at Midnight Sun Brewing Company and president of the Brewer's Guild of Alaska, and Jake Wade, operations manager of Bear Paw River Brewing in Wasilla.

Courtesy of Michele Vasquez

Alaska’s first steps into statehood were shaped by its inaugural legislative class, a group of senators and House representatives who set the young government on its course six decades ago.

One of those first legislators, James Fisher, played an equally prominent role in shaping the Kenai Peninsula. Jim died of COVID-19 last month at his home at Heritage Place in Soldotna. He was 93.

Incumbent Ben Carpenter and challenger Paul Dale are seeking the House District 29 seat, representing Nikiski, Sterling, Hope and the eastern peninsula.

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association

The Senate Resources Committee held a much-belated public hearing on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointees to the Alaska Board of Fisheries on Friday.

Central peninsula District O Sen. Peter Micciche chaired the hearing.

“This meeting really is for you. We had our session cut short in Juneau because of COVID, obviously. And we did not have an opportunity to go through our confirmations,” Micciche said.

Appointees have been serving without a confirmation vote in the Legislature, which drew a lot of criticism in public testimony. Susan Doherty is the executive director of the Southeast Alaska Seiners Association.

“And I would implore the Senate and the House Fisheries Committees to work on legislation and/or amendments to the state constitution, if necessary, to correct this issue,” Doherty said. “People who are given such power should be seasoned, knowledgeable and fully vetted by the confirmation process, period.”

Representative Gary Knopp of Kenai was reportedly killed in a plane crash outside of Soldotna this morning, along with six other people.
Knopp was reportedly flying his own plane, a Piper Aztec, outside of Soldotna when it collided with a de Havilland Beaver around 8:30 a.m. The collision reportedly happened above Mayoni Street between Soldotna and Sterling, about two miles northeast of the Soldotna airport.The Beaver was reportedly owned by High Adventure Air, and co-owner Greg Bell was also confirmed dead in the crash. Knopp flew alone, and the other four people killed were passengers in Bell’s plane. That included Kansas resident David Rogers, who troopers identified as a guide, and South Carolina residents Caleb Hulsey, Heather Hulsey, Makay Hulsey, and Kristen Wright.


The deadline for businesses to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program was extended last week and now runs until August 8.

The PPP offers loans to businesses for relief from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. These loans become grants and don’t have to be paid back as long as 60 percent of the money is used for payroll and other eligible expenses. The program surfaced in March, and while many businesses applied for it then, others were left out. Notably, commercial fishermen were largely excluded, as many pay their employees through 1099 forms as independent contractors rather than as W2 employees.

The Alaska CARES program has been live for about a month now. The program is supposed to distribute grants to businesses to help with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with funding that came to the state from the federal government. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he wanted about $150 million to go out within the first 30 days to help keep businesses from going under.

That’s not how it’s worked out so far. Of the nearly two thousand applications submitted by Monday this week, less than 10 percent had been approved. There a handful of problems with the program, but the biggest one is that any small business that got aid through the federal Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Impact Disaster Loan programs is ineligible for it.

Voters in the Kenai-Soldotna area will have a handful of candidates to choose from this fall when deciding who they want to represent them in the state House of Representatives. One caveat: they’re all conservative, and three are running in the primary on Aug. 18.

District 30 is currently represented by Gary Knopp, a two-term representative from Kenai. He’s running for a third term, but Ron Gillham of Ridgeway, Kelly Wolf of Kenai, and James Baisden of Kenai have all stepped forward to challenge him. Gillham and Wolf are running as Republicans in the primary, while Baisden is running as a nonpartisan candidate in the general.

Campaigning during a pandemic is going to look different this year. Gone are the days of big, in-person town halls and door-to-door canvassing. But that hasn’t stopped a full field of Kenai Peninsula candidates from setting their sights on the Legislature this fall.

House of Representatives District 29 covers Nikiski, part of Cooper Landing, Hope and Seward. First-term Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Nikiski Republican, is running for reelection. He’s got at least one challenger in the fall — Paul Dale, of Nikiski, who filed as a nonpartisan.

Carpenter comments net national blowback

May 19, 2020
State of Alaska

This week, the Legislature returned to Juneau from a recess to work on distributing COVID-19 relief funds in the state. Because they were coming from all over the state to gather in a single building before going back home to their communities, legislators were required to wear masks and be temperature checked as they headed into the building. Once they were checked, they would receive a sticker noting that they were clear of symptoms.

The stickers turned out to be a source of controversy. In an email posted to social media, Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski compared the stickers to the badges with a yellow Star of David on them, which Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to wear as identification prior to being segregated and later shipped to concentration camps.

Chaos quickly followed. Comments were polarized on both sides, with critics saying it was offensive to compare a health screening to genocide, and supporters saying his comments were misunderstood and taken out of context.

Carpenter apologized for the analogy and said he was trying to make a point about loss of liberties and government overreach amid the pandemic response. He also noted concerns about the Legislature requiring the general public to wear similar stickers in the future, noting their medical status.

Voters in House District 29 will have a new name to consider on the ballot this fall. Nikiski resident Paul Dale announced his candidacy this week.

Dale is a lifelong Alaskan who has lived in Nikiski since 1989. He and his wife, Brenda, started Snug Harbor Seafoods in 1990, employing at least 250 people every summer until they sold the majority of the company’s assets last year. 

Dale says he’s been wanting to run for the Legislature for 30 years, but business kept him too busy. 

“I’ve been interested in politics all of my life, Alaskan politics. And I got sidelined with developing Snug Harbor Seafoods and at that time it was easy to focus on family and business. We sold most of the assets six months ago and I now do have time to try my hand at elected politics,” Dale said.

On this week's Kenai Conversation, the central Kenai Peninsula's legislative delegation shared their thoughts on the state budget, COVID-19 stimulus efforts and next year's budget outlook. Thanks to Reps. Ben Carpenter and Gary Knopp and Sen. Peter Micciche.

A bill overhauling Alaska’s alcohol laws made it to the halfway point in the Legislature on Wednesday. Senate Bill 52, sponsored by Kenai Peninsula Sen. Peter Micciche, was voted out of the Senate and sent over to the House.

Micciche calls it a grand compromise hashed out by the factions that have been at odds over the state’s existing alcohol regulations.

“This bill a true compromise. All stakeholders got something but no stakeholder group got everything,” Micciche said. “The bill modernizes the reorganizes the 35-year old hodgepodge of alcohol statutes in Alaska into a comprehensive, reorganized Title 4 Rewrite. The primary focus is on public health and safety. It provides clarity for licensees, local governments, law enforcement and the public and will result in a common-sense, consistent and less unnecessarily burdensome regulation of the alcohol beverage industry.”

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

As complex as the state budget is on the micro level, at the macro level, there are only three elements in play.

“We cut the budget in a significant way to keep a bigger PDF, we somehow find new revenues, which, I’ll be the first to tell you, I don’t think is on the table in a big way this session. Or we either overdraw from the earnings of the permanent fund or we take our one last savings account, which we have shown you is down to a very sort of perilous $2 billion mark. And those are basically our choices. They’re all difficult choices,” said Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, of Dillingham, at a town hall meeting Saturday in Soldotna.


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is doing its annual roadshow, rolling out the proposed budget in a series of community meetings around the borough. Budget presentations were held in Kenai and Soldotna this week.

At a meeting Thursday at Soldotna High School, KPBSD Finance Director Liz Hays explained that the district is looking at a $2.26 million deficit next year.

“So, we ended FY19 with unassigned fund balance in the amount of $3.9 million, and so this year we’re not going to make cuts to accommodate the deficit we’re facing because that money will come out of fund balance to balance the budget for FY21,” Hays said.

Alaska Legislature

Kenai Peninsula residents have a chance to weigh in on the state’s budget without having to budget for a trip to Juneau.

Rep. Gary Knopp, of Kenai, will hold a legislative town hall meeting Saturday in Soldotna. Knopp will be joined by House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, of Dillingham, Rep. Louise Stutes, of Kodiak, and Rep. Neal Foster, of Nome.

“We’re midsession. We’re going to give you an update of where we’re at on the budget,” Knopp said. “We’re just starting to close out the budget Finance subcommittees and we’re going to debate the budget in full Finance and we’re looking for community input on that.”


The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District shared successes and concerns with the legislators during House and Senate committee meetings last week.

Board of Education member Debbie Cary, of Ninilchik, River City Academy student Kaegan Koski and district Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff participated in the Alaska Association of School Boards’ Legislative Fly-in day Feb. 10.

Cary highlighted some of the academic innovations KPBSD is pursuing, such as personalized learning, video-conferencing, a drone academy and career and technical education.

“As part of our strategic plan, we focus on four Rs — ready, relevant, responsive and rigor,” Cary said.

Micciche eyeing more cuts as legislative session begins

Jan 20, 2020
AK Legislature


Senator Peter Micciche held a townhall meeting in Soldotna Thursday night, just ahead of the opening of the second session of the 31st state legislature.


ECON 919 - Protecting coastal infrastructure

Dec 20, 2019


This week, keeping the boats moving safely in and out of alaska’s many harbors. Communities all along Alaska’s coasts are joining in the call for help funding local infrastructure projects. Both the borough and the city of Kenai recently adopted resolutions urging legislative action.


Cooper files letter of intent for House run

Nov 20, 2019
Kenai Peninsula Borough

Borough Assembly president Kelly Cooper of Homer has filed a letter of intent to run for House District 31. Cooper’s second term on the assembly will be up next October. She is registered as undeclared and has not announced whether she’ll run in the Democratic primary. She spoke with KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran from the Alaska Municipal League Conference in Anchorage about what her time on the assembly can mean in Juneau and the need for better communication at the capitol.

Office of Rep. Gary Knopp


That portion of the state legislature in Juneau for a special session was again unable to find the votes necessary to override Governor Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes. Roughly a third of the legislature met again at Wasilla Middle School. KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran spoke to Gary Knopp Friday afternoon, the Central Peninsula’s lone legislator in Juneau.



On this month's Drinking on the Last Frontier, Bill checks in on efforts to update Alaska's liquor licensing regulations, expecially pertaining to craft breweries. Plus, a visit with Devil's Club Brewing Co. in Juneau and a mammoth brewing undertaking in Fairbanks. Cheers!

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Department of Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Donna Arduin, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and representatives of Americans For Prosperity, which sponsored the meeting, gave their interpretations of Alaska’s fiscal situation and asnwered a selection of submitted questions from the audience. Full audio of the meeting, held at 6 p.m. March 25 at the Cannery Lodge in Kenai, follows:

Alaska Legislature


A House sub-finance committee went through its regularly scheduled business Monday morning, but not all members stuck around to the end.



Sen. Micciche and Rep. Carpenter town hall

Feb 27, 2019

Two of the Central Kenai Peninsula's three-member delegation to the state capital held a town-hall-style meeting in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Building Saturday. Here is the recording KDLL made of the meeting, broken into three bite-size chunks. You can find Rep. Gary Knopp's town hall elsewhere here on

Knopp assigned to House Finance Committee

Feb 21, 2019

  The Alaska State House majority announced committee assignments Tuesday, and Kenai Rep. Gary Knopp was given a seat on the powerful Finance Committee, but on no others. However, that isn't unusual for members on Finance to only serve on that committee, one with a sizable workload.

Knopp explains Speaker vote at Chamber meeting

Feb 15, 2019


District 30 Representative Gary Knopp is in town over the weekend to meet with constituents. He spoke to a joint meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce about some of the drama that’s unfolded as the House has finally organized itself.



Girdwood Brewing Co.

On this month's Drinking on the Last Frontier, Bill recaps the action/nonaction on an effort to revise Alaska's alcohol regulations. After that, sample the beers of Scandinavia, take a craft beer tour of San Fransisco and journey up the road to Girdwood Brewing Co.


Central Emergency Services in Soldotna is hoping to be a little less centrally located by building a new Station 1 on a larger lot with more room to grow.

Assembly pushes for early education funding

Mar 1, 2018

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved with unanimous consent last week a resolution supporting the accelerated passage of the education bill in the Alaska State Legislature this year.

“What that is, we’re going to this resolution, if it passes, to the legislators saying, ‘Hey, if you can get us early funding in so we don’t have to lay teachers off, or pink slip teachers, before the budget process, it would be a great help to us,” said Assemblyman Brent Hibbert.