Bill would allow 4-day school week

JUNEAU - One school district in Alaska might be allowed to have three-day weekends.

HB21, from Reps. Peggy Wilson, Tammie Wilson and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, would create a three-year pilot program that would allow a single school district to hold classes for four days a week.

If the bill passes, school districts would have to apply to the Alaska Board of Education and Early Development to participate in the program.

Any school district that applies must prove their students will receive the "educational equivalent of a five-day school week." They also would have to show the majority of the community supports the program and provide quarterly reports to the board.


Senate votes to keep aid for early HS grads

BOISE - More gifted Idaho high school students moved one step closer to having an expedited path to one of the state's public universities under a bill approved by the Senate.

The Senate signed off on a bipartisan bill Friday that makes permanent a pilot program offering high-achieving students college scholarships equal to about $1,400 if they graduate early from high school.

That bill will now move to the House.

Republican Sen. Steve Thayn, of Emmett, said more than $40,000 in scholarships was disbursed last year, and Idaho saved $150,000 that year because the state's cost of educating one student annually is higher than the average award.


State closer to calling sheriffs law of land

HELENA - Montana is a step closer to declaring that local sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, and to also nullifying any federal crackdown on assault rifles.

The measures are among a slate of gun-rights bills that cleared the Legislature's House Judiciary Committee on Friday.

Those bills met with staunch opposition from Democrats, who argue the moves violate the U.S. Constitution.

The so-called "sheriffs first" bill says federal agents must get a sheriff's permission before making arrests or serving warrants. They'd risk local kidnapping or trespass charges.

If the bill clears the Republican-controlled House and Senate, it will go directly to voters in 2014. The direct referendum avoids the potential veto pen of Gov. Steve Bullock.


Dead fish washing ashore at island lake

GRAND ISLAND - As the ice recedes at Suck's Lake in Grand Island, the carcasses of dead fish fouling the shore may be stinky evidence of a bird problem.

City workers have been filling buckets with thousands of fish carcasses, and city parks and recreation director Todd McCoy told The Grand Island Independent that "it will be a mess for a little bit."

McCoy said the fish kill was a natural occurrence - common in the Midwest- and resulted from ice and snow preventing much new oxygen from entering the water.

At Pier Lake in Grand Island, waterfowl waste has raised the nutrient content to an unhealthy level for fish, McCoy said.

Pier Lake tried to solve the problem with aeration fountains that were added, but only the hardiest fish survived.

north dakota

Old schoohouse gets new life in town

BINFORD - A 90-year-old red-brick schoolhouse that closed down a decade ago is getting new life in a small North Dakota town, thanks to a surge in enrollment.

Officials in the Midkota School District, which covers 600 square miles and includes five communities in the east-central part of the state, said using the old building will help alleviate crowded conditions at the elementary school.

The Grand Forks Herald reported that kindergarten-through-sixth-grade enrollment has increased from 53 to 76 students in the last four years.

"It's a nice problem to have," said Keith Johnson, district school board president. "It's always nice to have to do something because of more students."

The old school opened in about 1920 and closed in 2000. It's attached to the newer Midkota Elementary School through an enclosed lower-level walkway.

School officials said they're using every inch of space. The old music room has become a multiuse destination as a teacher workroom and home to the elementary after-school program. The special-needs class has moved into what used to be a sports-equipment room adjacent to the gymnasium. The school library doubles as the sixth-grade classroom.


Statue of Hatfield may be going to DC

SALEM - Oregon may swap statues with Washington, D.C.

A state House bill calls for a fundraising campaign to commission a statue of Mark Hatfield to be placed in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

Each state is allowed two statues, so one would have to move to make way for Hatfield, the former governor who served 30 years in the Senate. He died in 2011.

The Statesman Journal reported the bill calls for returning the statue of Jason Lee to Salem. Lee was a missionary and university founder known as the founder of Salem.

Lee's statue has been in Statuary Hall since 1953 along with a statue of John McLoughlin, a fur trade officer and early governor known as the father of Oregon. His statue would remain.

south dakota

Panel advances ban on texting, driving

PIERRE - A South Dakota Senate panel approved a bill to ban texting while driving, a proposal that has been repeatedly rejected by the state Legislature.

The Transportation Committee voted 5-2 to send the measure to the full Senate.

Supporters hope the Legislature will look more favorably on the idea this year because some South Dakota cities have already imposed their own bans.

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have already banned texting while driving.

The measure would prohibit writing, sending or reading a text message while driving, but it would continue to allow drivers to make cellphone calls and use hands-free electronic devices.

It also would prevent cities from imposing any ordinance that varies from statewide law on texting.


Wait time for divorce might become a year

OLYMPIA - People filing for divorce in Washington state must now wait 90 days before it can become final.

But under a bill heard Friday in the state Senate Law and Justice Committee, that waiting period would be extended to one year.

Bill supporters say it would give couples more time to reconcile and could result in fewer divorces. They says that in addition, because divorce is correlated with higher rates of poverty and juvenile delinquency, the measure would save the state money in social services.

"Increasing the waiting time for dissolution will be beneficial to families of our state and certainly will be beneficial to taxpayers of our state," said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, the bill's sponsor.

Waiting periods for divorces to become final vary by state.

While 28 states have no waiting periods, two have mandatory waits of one year, and one state, Arkansas, requires that couples wait 18 months before completing a divorce.


Research: Wolves like moose in winter

JACKSON - Research shows wolves in the northern part of Grand Teton National Park have an appetite for moose during the wintertime.

Park and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers documented some 55 moose killed by wolves over the past three winters.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported moose numbers have been declining in Jackson Hole for years.

The moose population is less than one-fifth the number counted 20 years ago and only about one-fourth of the number that wildlife managers would like to see.

Grand Teton biologist Sarah Dewey says wolves typically prefer to prey on elk rather than moose. Moose are bigger and she says elk are easier for wolves to take down.

Other threats to moose in Grand Teton include parasites, wildfires and getting hit by cars.

The Associated Press