To the Leaders of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region Tribal Governments

Re: Deadline on Vote to form Regional Tribal Government extended to October 31, 2020

August 21, 2020

Dear Tribal Leader:

For many years, the People of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region have considered the question of whether to form a Regional Tribal Government (RTG). Calista, directed by our Vision to demonstrate corporate responsibility, cultural stewardship, and economic stability, has invested in this effort over the years to honor the guidance of our elders to unify our Tribes to strengthen the self-determination of our Tribal Governments so our People will have more direct control over our resources and future.

A number of Tribal leaders have recently requested an extension of the deadline to submit voting resolutions. Several leaders informed us that their Councils have not been able to meet to vote on formation of the RTG due to the COVID-19 pandemic, distribution of CARES funds, subsistence activities, and preparation for winter. With those important concerns in mind, the deadline to submit Resolutions to vote on the formation of the RTG has been extended.

The new deadline to submit your Council’s Resolution: October 31st of 2020.

The next monthly Calista-Tribal Consultation will focus on discussion of the Regional Tribal Government. Tribal leaders as well as Calista leadership will present information about the structure and benefits of a Regional Tribal Government and answer questions you may have.

This is an exciting opportunity and we hope you will support this effort to help the People of our Region. It is important to vote whether your Tribe supports or opposes the formation of the RTG. To elevate the position and voice of your Tribe, please send in your Tribal Resolution as soon as possible. If you have any questions or if your Council would like to request a presentation about the RTG you can contact Kristi Williams in the Calista Government Relations Department: [email protected] or Patty Murphy, Tribal Liaison at (907) 565-4210.

Quyana! Sincerely,

Robert Beans, Chairman

Calista Corporation

Dr. Al Gross declares victory in Alaska Primary

Last night (August 19th, 2020), Alaska’s Democratic primary election was called by the Associated Press, officially awarding the nomination to Dr. Al Gross, an independent from Anchorage. With 93% of precincts reporting, the division of elections has him with 75% of the vote, up by almost 20,000 votes over the next closest candidate on the Democratic ballot.

Dr. Gross addressed supporters and union workers following his victory and the receipt of a key union endorsement.

“I’m not looking for a job by running for the Senate. I’m looking to do a job, and to bring jobs and robust economic growth back to our state,” said Dr. Gross. “I sought this nomination not as a Democrat, not as a Republican, but as an independent because it’s time for the parties to come together and quit this partisan stalemate that is hurting Alaska every single day.

“As a medical doctor who understands the pain this pandemic has caused working families, as a commercial fisherman who’s outraged at the havoc Sullivan’s trade wars have had on our industry, and as a lifelong Alaskan who’s seen climate change transform our state before my very eyes—I know that we can do better than swampy partisan politics. While tonight the primary comes to a close, tomorrow, our mission begins to create an historic coalition. This fight won’t be easy, but I’m inspired to know that I’m not in it alone. I hope to inspire you to join us in our fight to take this seat back from the outside special interests.”

Dr. Gross, a lifelong Alaskan, commercial fisherman, small business owner, and orthopedic surgeon is seeking to unseat Dan Sullivan and bring Alaskan independence to the U.S. Senate. Dan Sullivan votes his party’s line over 90% of the time—roughly 30% more often than Alaska’s other senator, Lisa Murkowski.

Dr. Gross’ victory marks the official start of one of the most competitive Senate races in the country this year and puts Alaska on the map as a key pathway to flipping the Senate come November.

Daniel McElhatton, Communications Director

Al Gross for U.S. Senate

Business Liability Protection is Necessary for Alaska’s Businesses

Alaska is beginning to re-open our economy post-COVID and the economic impact has been particularly felt by our small businesses. Employers have especially valid concerns, since they must concern themselves with their own health and the health of their employees and patrons, but also the future of their businesses.

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to lawsuits from customers and employees contracting COVID. For that reason, Alaska needs to implement its own business liability protections, as many states have already, without waiting for the federal government to act – businesses need confidence in order to reopen and bring our economy back online.

Small business owners are concerned about liability for their businesses, and for good reason. A NFIB survey found that about 70 percent of small business owners surveyed are concerned about increased liability during the reopening of their states. In states without COVID business liability protections, a single lawsuit could devastate a small business through damage payments and legal fees, even without proving negligence or malice. The mere threat of burdensome legal fees, negative publicity, and dozens of spurious lawsuits will chill the economy. After weeks of mandated closures, it’s a financial risk that many small businesses may be unwilling to undertake.

As of August 7, nine states have protected their businesses, and others are moving in that direction. New safeguards in Utah, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Iowa, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi apply to all businesses, while North Carolina extended protections only to “essential businesses.” Kansas included provisions in its COVID omnibus bill.

Opponents to providing reasonable liability protection claim that it isn’t warranted and is unfair to workers. Yet employees and consumers can still find recourse – all of the new policies exclude liability protection in cases where the business owner didn’t take proper precautions (negligence) or was malicious.

The best approach is to provide protection from COVID-related litigation for businesses that demonstrate judicious compliance with health guidelines issued by federal, state, or local health officials. In Oklahoma and Louisiana law, where more than one conflicting guideline applies, the business only needs to fully comply with one to be shielded from liability – that is, a business cannot be sued for following one guideline instead of another. This is reasonable, since businesses are already scrambling to keep up with recommendations that change on a daily basis.

Iowa also limits lawsuits to those involving hospitalizations or deaths and requires proof of “actual malice” in order to win a case. This deters spurious lawsuits from patients who were never hospitalized and recovered without incident, as well as sets a high standard of proof. Iowa and Oklahoma also explicitly bar suits based on “potential exposure,” which is meant to further discourage illegitimate claims from people who never got sick.

Both Wyoming and Mississippi mention the business’ “good faith” compliance with public health guidelines. A provision like this could be seen as overly generous, but it has the distinct advantage of protecting business owners who are doing their best – as well as those doing more than required – from liability. We should encourage our businesses to go above and beyond what is mandated, but few are able to if it leaves them open to risk.

Ideal protections for businesses would likely include a “good faith” compliance clause, like Wyoming and Mississippi, and businesses would only have to comply with one set of standards, if several exist and are inconsistent. And finally, any permanent solution would not protect businesses acting recklessly or demonstrating willful misconduct, leaving ample avenues for consumers to find recourse.

Even though Congress keeps promising business liability protection, waiting for the federal government to pass reforms would be a mistake: not only because that protection may not come, but because Alaska needs protections at the state level that are immune from the whims of Congress. Further, it’s unlikely that a federal “solution” would take into account the nuance of Alaska’s economy; state-level protections focused on Alaska would be more effective. 

As Alaska maneuvers through this pandemic, it’s critical to protect our small businesses who are complying with public health guidelines from COVID liability. Otherwise, we could lose them forever.

Win Gruening

Juneau, AK

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