Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, center, asks a question of Jason Brune, Commissioner designee for the Department of Conservation, as he speaks to the House Resources Committee at the Capitol on Friday, March 14, 2019. Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, is left. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, center, asks a question of Jason Brune, Commissioner designee for the Department of Conservation, as he speaks to the House Resources Committee at the Capitol on Friday, March 14, 2019. Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, is left. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Confirmation hearing draws a crowd

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

5 p.m.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, is on the House Resources Committee and shared this tally of testifiers who were for or against Brune’s confirmation.

— Alex McCarthy

3:25 p.m.

The hearing is over — for now. With more and more people calling in throughout the hearing, the committee will come back together at 5:30 p.m. to hear more. Then they’ll likely continue taking comment at a later time, Tarr says.

— Alex McCarthy

2:35 p.m.

Former Rep. Eric Feige (who is also a former chair of this committee) called in to testify in support of Brune. He says he believes Brune will bring a balance to the position because he has worked in so many different fields from regulation to public relations.

The vast majority of testimony, still, has been negative, with most callers bringing up the same points about conflict of interest and his previous comments in favor of Pebble Mine.

— Alex McCarthy

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

2:15 p.m.

We just had our second caller in support of Brune. This is from a man who used to coach youth football with Brune, who says Brune is passionate about his children and about Alaska.

“Jason will always put Alaska first and would never put one resource ahead of another,” the caller says.

— Alex McCarthy

1:50 p.m.

In addition to the people here and on the phone, there are dozens of letters in opposition and in support of Brune available on the state’s website here.

— Alex McCarthy

1:47 p.m.

Carl Brodersen from Juneau steps to the table to testify. He rails off a number of comparisons of putting people with clear conflicts of interest in key positions.

“You wouldn’t put Willie Nelson in charge of regulating marijuana,” he says.

— Alex McCarthy

1:45 p.m.

A Bristol Bay fishing captain just testified here in person. He held his young daughter in his arm as he called Brune an “unabashed Pebble Mine fanatic” and urged the representatives to disapprove his nomination. He says he’s shocked to see someone with such deep ties to the mine being appointed to this seat.

“It’s something I’d expect to see in Washington, D.C. I’m surprised and quite sincerely disappointed to find in Alaska,” he says.

— Alex McCarthy

1:40 p.m.

Below is Brune’s resume. You’ll see the years that he worked for Ango American, which worked to set up the Pebble Mine — a polarizing topic in the state and beyond.

He finishes his brief time at the microphone talking about how he’d like to get an expedited process to developing state regulations for managing PFAS, a chemical that has ended up in water systems around the state and country in recent years.

— Alex McCarthy

1:30 p.m.

Near the end of his opening statement, Brune says he’s on board with “the governor’s agenda that Alaska is open for business.”

Rep. Geran Tarr, chair of the House Resources Committee, says that 69 people are signed up to testify. A pretty nice turnout for this hearing on a Friday afternoon.

— Alex McCarthy

1:20 p.m.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Designee Jason Brune’s (pronounce BROONE-ee) confirmation hearing is starting now. He says that when he helped clean up after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he was inspired to get into the field of environmental conservation.

He acknowledges that his main priority is resource extraction, but he wants to do it responsibly.

“I will do all in my power to ensure something like the Valdez oil spill never happens again in Alaska,” he says.

— Alex McCarthy

12:02 p.m.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, filed legislation today that aims at strengthening state law when it comes to retail theft and other property crimes.

House Bill 98 would allow prosecutors to aggregate crimes under second-degree theft that:

• Happen within 180 days of each other

• The amount is between $750 and $25,000

• The property or services are taken from commercial establishments

It would also update statutes about fraudulent use of an access device to include an identification document. Lastly, it would make possession of car theft tools a class A misdemeanor.

Claman, an attorney and the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, worked with former police officer Rep. Chuck Kopp (R-Anchorage) on the bill. They also spoke with public safety officials throughout the state in preparing this.

“After discussions with law enforcement officials about organized theft, retail theft, and motor vehicle theft, I worked to craft legislation that would improve public safety by giving police officers additional tools when arresting and prosecuting criminals,” Claman said in a release.

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, center, speaks from a panel of the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission during a listening session at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, center, speaks from a panel of the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission during a listening session at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

— Alex McCarthy

11:15 a.m.

Kind of a strange storyline developed last night and this morning. The head of the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights made a Facebook post that was critical of a “Black Rifles Matter” bumper sticker on a car in the commission’s parking lot. The post was quickly deleted.

Later on, according to another post going around Facebook (from the owner of the car), the head of the commission, Marti Buscaglia, left her card on the person’s windshield with a message to not park in that lot again. Chief Probation Officer Kendall Rhyne also left a card on the windshield.

Commenters on Facebook and beyond have grilled Buscaglia and Rhyne, saying that leaving these messages and using their official state positions to do this are impeding the driver’s First Amendment rights.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy agrees. He issued the following statement this morning:

“After review of a post made on the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights social media page yesterday, my office has requested the Department of Law launch an immediate investigation into the matter. Protecting an individual’s constitutional rights, including the 1st amendment, is of the utmost importance to this administration.”

So we’ll see what happens.

— Alex McCarthy

9:05 a.m.

It’s been a jam-packed week at the Capitol, and we’ll see if it ends with a bang or with a quiet day. There are meetings throughout the day, including a couple confirmation hearings for commissioner appointees — Department of Environmental Conservation Designee Jason Brune and Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Julie Anderson — this afternoon.

Those could be interesting, especially Brune’s hearing. Early on in session, there was a lengthy public comment session where people shared their thoughts about Brune and his past involvement with Pebble Mine. That hearing’s at 1:20 p.m., and we’re planning on being there.

— Alex McCarthy

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