Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left and Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, questioned acting Attorney General Treg Taylor about the administration's approach to legal matters at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 23, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

AG defends pandemic emergency orders during hearing

Disaster declaration carried force of law, Taylor says

Senators questioned Attorney General Treg Taylor Wednesday, voicing concerns about executive branch overreach and other legal interpretations. The hearing was part of Taylor’s confirmation process after being appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy after his two immediate predecessors resigned following reports of past indiscretions.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Taylor on legal matters, asking how he would approach certain situations. One main concern for the committee’s chair Sen. Lora Reinbold were the restrictions put in place during the pandemic.

Reinbold asked Taylor several times if he believed health mandates put in place under the state’s emergency declaration carried the force of law, and if so, if he believed it was permissible for those mandates to curtail certain Constitutional liberties even without due process of law.

[Attorney general discusses plans, Clarkson in hearing]

Taylor affirmed that he did. The U.S. and state constitutions as well as the Alaska Disaster Act gave the governor the power to issue certain kinds of orders under extraordinary circumstances. Through the disaster declaration, the Legislature granted some of its rule-making authority to the governor under the conditions laid out under established Alaska law, Taylor said. Disaster declarations are meant to bypass the typical legislative process, he said, which is meant to be slow.

“I think the Alaska Disaster Act is an acknowledgment that sometimes in certain conditions that (legislative process) needs to be bypassed,” Taylor said. “Like any of those liberties, there are times when those can be infringed upon.”

Taylor gave what he said was the classic example of not being able to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Sens. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, and Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, both pointed out the Legislature had the ability to call itself back into session and chose not to. Some lawmakers had wanted to call themselves into special sessions to address the emergency order but did not have the 40 votes necessary to do it.

In November, lawmakers sent a letter to Dunleavy asking him to call lawmakers into session, but the governor ultimately decided against it.

Republican lawmakers asked what Taylor would do as attorney general to push back against what they said was executive overreach from the Biden Administration concerning resource development. Taylor said the Department of Law was already working on several suits related to the issue.

Taylor gave the example of the Biden administration’s decision to review the decision to repeal the 2001 Roadless Rule as one area where DOL would push to assert state control. The Roadless Rule was repealed by the Trump administration despite protests from local conservationists, fishermen and tribal governments.

Kiehl questioned Taylor on DOL’s interpretation of what funds were susceptible to a financial mechanism known as “the sweep” which moves the remainder of certain funds into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. In the past, the Dunleavy administration has tried to determine what funds are able to be swept, Kiehl said, in particular the Power Cost Equalization fund which subsidizes electrical service in rural areas.

A review of the PCE issue is currently taking place, Taylor said, adding that he was willing to work with the Legislature on the matter.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

The author managed to take a grouse despite being deep in thought for a good half hour of his deer hunt. He made jalapeno poppers that night.
Internal dialogue of a hunter (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: The internal dialogue of a hunter

There is always something that comes to mind when I am outside.

Courtesy Photo / Molly Pressler Collection
Japanese-Americans interned in Alaska in World War II are shown in this photo at a camp in New Mexico where they endured the majority of the war.
Research into interned Japanese-Americans in Alaska receives grant support

104 Japanese-Americans were interned from Alaska at the outset of WWII.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, Sept. 17, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Sept. 16

The most recent state and local figures

The Juneau Police Department is seeking more information on a handful of crimes that occurred in Juneau in August. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police seeking information on recent crimes in Juneau

The police need more information if the investigations are to proceed.

The Baby Raven Reads-published book Shanyaak’utlaax̱ – Salmon Boy will represent Alaska at the 2021 National Book Festival, held by the Library of Congress. (Courtesy art / Sealaska Heritage Institute)
Baby Raven Reads book is Alaska’s selection for National Book Festival

It’s the first time a book from the early literacy program has been selected.

Most Read