Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, left, Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, center, Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Wasilla, and other legislators listen to debate for and against Amanda Price for Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety during confirmation voting during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, left, Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, center, Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Wasilla, and other legislators listen to debate for and against Amanda Price for Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety during confirmation voting during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Legislators debate, vote on governor’s appointees

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

4:05 p.m.

For those following along at home (there are apparently a lot of you today), the legislators also confirmed Department of Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman and Department of Transportation Commissioner John MacKinnon were also confirmed.

That does it for the governor’s commissioners. They’ll now move on to boards and committees. I, on the other hand, will be moving on to writing my story for tomorrow’s paper.

— Alex McCarthy

3:40 p.m.

Everything about that vote was strange. The Republican-heavy Senate broke down 50-50 on Price. Sen. David Wilson, when asked what his vote was, said “Yippee-ki-yay.” Is this a joint session of the Alaska Legislature or a “Die Hard” sequel?

The following Republican senators voted against Price: Sen. Mike Shower, Sen. Click Bishop, Costello, Giessel.

Anyway, here’s how the House voted (note that I apparently took this picture a half second too early. Rep. Geran Tarr voted to confirm Price):

The House’s vote on Amanda Price.

The House’s vote on Amanda Price.

— Alex McCarthy

3:38 p.m.

There’s all kinds of aisle-crossing in the Senate. President Cathy Giessel and Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello, both Republicans, vote no.

Senate is a 10-10 tie. Murmers through the room.

Then in the House, 24-15….confirmed.

That makes for a 34-25 overall vote. Amanda Price is the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

— Alex McCarthy

3:32 p.m.

Sen. Peter Micciche is up, prepared to speak in favor of Price.

“Boy, I tell you. This has been fascinating.”

Micciche calls this a “witch hunt” against Price. He again harps on what he believes to be gender-fueled prejudice against Price.

— Alex McCarthy

3:28 p.m.

Rep. Adam Wool, who is on the House State Affairs Committee, says he’s on board with what Wilson is saying about it being a good thing that Price has passion. But Wool can’t reconcile that with the inconsistencies that Price gave to the committees and on her resume.

“You don’t want to be so passionate that you don’t give all the facts or be straightforward,” Wool says.

— Alex McCarthy

3:25 p.m.

Rep. Tammie Wilson says she’s heard much of the criticisms Price is getting — that she’s too assertive, that she’s too outgoing — wouldn’t be coming at her if she were a man. Wilson says she gets some of the same criticism for being outspoken as a woman.

“This is a female,” Wilson says. “Sometimes we’re not supposed to do those things.”

— Alex McCarthy

3:24 p.m.

Shaw says his decision comes down to leadership, not the ability to wear a badge or write a ticket.

“Can Amanda Price to the job?” Shaw asked. “With the men and women with DPS behind her, I believe she can. If they stand behind her, then I do too.”

— Alex McCarthy

3:22 p.m.

What a roller coaster. Shaw sounded like he was going to oppose her at first. Now he sounds like he’s going to speak in favor. But maybe he’s just setting us up for a dramatic finish. Shaw has a flair for the dramatic.

— Alex McCarthy

3:16 p.m.

Rasmussen speaks in support of Price. She says Price has passed the background checks and has the security clearance necessary to do the job. She also adds that this Legislature has already set a record for the number of women in office, and with Price, the administration would also have a high number of women in important positions. Rasmussen adds, as Price’s deputy commissioner said yesterday, that she thinks some of the criticisms of Price have been because of “personal problems” of the critics.

Rep. Laddie Shaw is up. He was really going after Price yesterday in House State Affairs, and he acknowledges that here today. He says this confirmation process has been the toughest one for him.

Shaw says the answers to his questions “did not paint the picture of an ideal candidate.”

— Alex McCarthy

3:10 p.m.

Now time for Amanda Price.

Fields, probably the most vocal critic of Price, gets this started. He runs through a list of misleading statements Price has made during the confirmation process.

“I don’t think law enforcement should be a strict prerequisite, but integrity absolutely has to be a prerequisite,” Fields says.

— Alex McCarthy

Sen. Donald Olson, D-Golovin, speaks in favor of Attorney General Kevin Clarkson during confirmation voting during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Clarkson was approved. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Donald Olson, D-Golovin, speaks in favor of Attorney General Kevin Clarkson during confirmation voting during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Clarkson was approved. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

3:05 p.m.

Saxe is through, unanimously.

Corri Feige, commissioner designee of the Department of Natural Resources, is now up. Josephson objects solely to speak in strong support of Feige.

Feige is then approved of unanimously.

— Alex McCarthy

3 p.m.

We’re back. Up first is Gen. Torrence Saxe, under consideration for the commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs.

— Alex McCarthy

2:45 p.m.

Clarkson is easily confirmed, 40-19. After all that talking, the vote has no drama.

We’re taking a 10-minute break. Still awaiting the most interesting vote of the day.

— Alex McCarthy

Kevin Clarkson, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s choice for Attorney General, answers questions in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Kevin Clarkson, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s choice for Attorney General, answers questions in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

2:33 p.m.

This is taking much longer than I think anyone expected. As Sen. Peter Micciche stands as the fourth person to speak about Clarkson, Rep. Adam Wool puts his hand over his face and leans back in his chair. I think that sums how many of us feel.

— Alex McCarthy

2:24 p.m.

Speaking of a super-conservative agenda, Rep. David Eastman shoots out of his chair to speak in response to Kiehl. He says he’s shocked that an attorney can be vilified for acting on behalf of his or her client.

— Alex McCarthy

2:22 p.m.

Kiehl is going in. He’s going case by case through Clarkson losing cases, costing the state money, as a result of a super-conservative agenda that seeks to exclude unmarried couples and those who lead non-Christian prayers in public.

Clarkson, in Kiehl’s mind, has developed “a long track record for advocating for an ideology beyond liberty and, frankly, beyond the Constitution.”

— Alex McCarthy

2:20 p.m.

Next up is Attorney General designee Kevin Clarkson. Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, is speaking in opposition.

“I’ll vote for many people I disagree with deeply today. In fact, I already have.”

Kiehl says Clarkson often picked cases at the expense of the needy, of women and of those in the LGBTQ lawsuit. Kiehl says he sees Clarkson as developing a portfolio of cases that seek to “exclude, discriminate and divide.”

— Alex McCarthy

2:18 p.m.

Tamika Ledbetter is easily confirmed as the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. I don’t think anyone voted against her.

— Alex McCarthy

2:16 p.m.

That was a pretty close vote, especially in the House. Crum is confirmed, 34-25. In the House, it was just 21-18 in favor. He’s the commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, officially.

— Alex McCarthy

2:11 p.m.

Sen. Natasha von Imhof is up, speaking assertively in support of Crum. She says she believes Crum’s experience as an executive vice president with a private company previously.

Sen. Shelley Hughes rises and brings an interesting perspective. Crum was her challenger in her Senate race, and she says she supports him.

— Alex McCarthy

2:07 p.m.

We’re still going on Crum. Tilton wraps up and Rep. Zack Fields jumps up to voice his opposition. He again says he believes Crum is a nice guy, but being nice isn’t enough when you’re as inexperienced as Crum is.

— Alex McCarthy

2 p.m.

After Spohnholz, Rep. Tiffany Zulkoski also speaks in opposition to Crum. She points out that both the API situation and the loss of some Senior Benefits Program payments both happened under Crum’s watch. Rep. Shirley Jackson then speaks in support of Crum, saying API was already heading in the wrong direction and the Senior Benefits money was appropriated by last year’s Legislature.

Rep. Cathy Tilton also rises in support of Crum. She runs through his resume.

— Alex McCarthy

1:50 p.m.

We’ve got another barnburner now. Adam Crum, the governor’s choice for the commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services. We’ve got some detractors on hand. One of them, Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, speaks out against Crum first.

She cites Crum’s lack of experience as part of the reason for the Alaska Psychiatric Institute contract being rushed without the necessary due diligence. The contract, which was awarded without a competitive bid process, is now being disputed in court.

— Alex McCarthy

1:49 p.m.

Douglas Vincent-Lang is confirmed as the commissioner of Fish and Game.

— Alex McCarthy

1:45 p.m.

Brune makes it through with relative ease, despite half an hour of argument. He is confirmed by a 35-24 vote. It was 23-16 in the House and 12-8 in the Senate.

— Alex McCarthy

1:38 p.m.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, stands up to speak in opposition to Brune. He reads off a series of statements Brune has made about those who oppose him. In one case, he called opponents of the Pebble Mine “unamerican carpetbaggers,” according to something Wielechowski reads.

Wielechowski also points out Brune’s lack of action on PFAS problems in the state. You can read what Brune says about this and how he explains the lack of action in this opinion piece in the Empire today.

— Alex McCarthy

1:35 p.m.

Legislators still sharing their thoughts on Brune. Going back and forth between in favor (all Republicans so far) and in opposition (all Democrats so far).

— Alex McCarthy

1:21 p.m.

Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, is speaking in favor of Brune. She says he makes his decisions based on science, and that she believes he’ll be respectful and responsible in the case of the Pebble Mine.

— Alex McCarthy

1:17 p.m.

We have our first contentious confirmation of the day. Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner designee Jason Brune is up.

There are a few objections. Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, speaks. He points out a time when Brune was asked if climate change is manmade and he waffled a little bit.

“He has essentially taken the position of industry over, in my opinion, the position of clean air and water,” Josephson says.

Brune has come under fire because of his past connections with the Pebble Mine project. People see him as a friend of industry over environment.

More on that here.

Jason Brune, Commissioner designee for the Department of Environmental Conservation, speaks to the House Resources Committee at the Capitol on Friday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jason Brune, Commissioner designee for the Department of Environmental Conservation, speaks to the House Resources Committee at the Capitol on Friday, March 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

— Alex McCarthy

1:15 p.m.

Nancy Dahlstrom is unanimously confirmed as commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

— Alex McCarthy

1:13 p.m.

Julie Anderson is unanimously confirmed as commissioner of Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

— Alex McCarthy

1:10 p.m.

Kelly Tshibaka is confirmed 48-11 for the Department of Administration.

Also, Tarr is here. She voted on that one.

— Alex McCarthy

1:08 p.m.

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, stands and reminds legislators that we’re voting on people today and we need to be respectful to them. Argue on qualifications, he says, but respect the people themselves who have volunteered to serve.

— Alex McCarthy

1:06 p.m.

All 20 senators are here. Rep. Mark Neuman is excused for the House, and Reps. David Eastman and Geran Tarr are not here. Wait, check that, Eastman just came in. So we’ve got 57 people officially here. Not sure if Eastman counts, as he missed roll call. Lots of confused looks here.

— Alex McCarthy

1:04 p.m.

How to watch:

— Alex McCarthy

1:03 p.m.

Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, is handing out Jolly Ranchers to legislators. He puts some on the media table, to which one member of the press says, “You can’t bribe the media.” That gets a laugh from Kawasaki and from the gallery behind us.

Then Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, (we’ve talked about him already today) sits just next to the press table and gets comfortable.

“It might be a long afternoon,” he says, in his dry, ferry-loving way.

— Alex McCarthy

12:57 p.m.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon gavels in the session five minutes early to allow for senators to file into the room. The House chambers are starting to get a little crowded…and things will be heating up here before too long. It looks like the votes go alphabetically by department name, so the Department of Administration (Kelly Tshibaka) will be first.

— Alex McCarthy

12:45 p.m.

It’s almost go time here at the Capitol. You can get a full rundown on what to expect here, courtesy the Associated Press. Basically, all eyes are on Amanda Price (Department of Public Safety), Adam Crum (Health and Social Services) and Jason Brune (Department of Environmental Conservation).

— Alex McCarthy

11:40 a.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alaska’s sole major pollster Ivan Moore released results of his statewide polling this week about the governor’s budget proposal. The polling was done March 25-April 2, and was conducted with a random sample of 739 registered voters with a 3.6 percent margin of error and 95 percent confidence.

The results (embedded below) show a split state, with 49 percent of people in favor of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget and 46 percent opposed. Five percent selected “neutral” or “not sure.” Interestingly, despite people being in favor of the budget, 49 percent of people responded that they think the budget will make Alaska’s economy weaker, while 42 percent believed the budget would make the economy stronger.

Forty-one percent of respondents were from Anchorage, 15 percent were from the Mat-Su Valley, 12 percent were from Fairbanks and 5 percent were from Juneau.

Find more in Alaska Survey Research’s press release below. You can also take a look at the specific wording in the question.

— Alex McCarthy

9:35 a.m.

An interesting development in the Senate Finance Transportation & Public Facilities subcommittee this morning. They added an item to the Senate’s budget proposal that would fund the Alaska Marine Highway System from October until next June.

In the governor’s proposal, ferry service would stop in October. This proposal from the Transportation committee would allow the ferries to run (to stay afloat, as headline writers like to say) through the winter. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, who has repeatedly expressed his love for the ferry system this session, says service would be reduced but it would at least buy some time until a final decision is made about the future of the marine highway system.

“The intent is that we have increased the governor’s budget submission substantially,” Stedman says. “The budget that was submitted would have tied up all the ships on the first of October. This would allow the marine highway to run a lower schedule service throughout the system, pretty much throughout the system, from October through June.”

“Surely, a reduced service is better than no service,” Stedman adds later.

Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, asks Stedman what to tell people who are concerned about the ferry system.

“That Senator Stedman didn’t become Benedict Arnold of the Marine Highway,” Stedman deadpans.

— Alex McCarthy

In this file photo, Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, raises his concerns of the proposed lack of funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System at the Capitol on Feb. 19, 2019 in Juneau, Alaska. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this file photo, Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, raises his concerns of the proposed lack of funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System at the Capitol on Feb. 19, 2019 in Juneau, Alaska. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

9:05 a.m.

One small endeavor that has spanned across the Northwest is the Year of the Salmon initiative. Legislators in Alaska, Oregon and Washington have worked together to bring legislation to declare 2019 as the International Year of the Salmon. Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, is carrying the banner for Alaska.

— Alex McCarthy

8:50 a.m.

The week’s main event is at 1 p.m., as a joint session of the Legislature will meet to vote on the governor’s appointees. The most attention will be on Amanda Price, the governor’s choice to head up the Department of Public Safety. Price, who called herself an “unconventional” choice for the position, does not have law enforcement experience. Her work ethic has also been called into question during the confirmation process.

On Tuesday, she attempted damage control by speaking to members of the media and bringing members of her staff with her. They spoke glowingly about her, praising her hard work and innovative thinking.

We’ll see how much weight the lawmakers put in those comments and on Price’s testimony to the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Read more on that here.

— Alex McCarthy

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