Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, speaks to his concerns about Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointment of Treg Taylor of Attorney General during a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, speaks to his concerns about Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointment of Treg Taylor of Attorney General during a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Lawmakers confirm attorney general, commissioners

Joint session worked through two-year backlog of appointments

In yet another full day of floor debates, a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature worked through a backlog of more than 100 confirmation votes for Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointments to various state positions.

The pandemic put an early end to last year’s legislative session and lawmakers weren’t able to meet to confirm the appointments. Lawmakers sued the administration earlier this year but a judge ruled in April the governor was within his authority. Most of the names considered Tuesday were to state regulatory boards, but it was the first time lawmakers had a chance to vote on any of the governor’s attorney general appointments.

Following the resignation of former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson for inappropriate texting to an employee, Ed Sniffen was appointed to the position only to resign weeks later over allegations about a past sexual relationship with a minor.

Taylor was not universally supported and members of both parties spoke in opposition to the confirmation. Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, a lawyer himself, questioned whether Taylor had the right kind of legal experience to lead the state, citing Taylor’s history with the oil and gas industry.

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, voted against Taylor’s confirmation. Taylor had “rubber stamped” the governor’s mandates during the pandemic closing businesses and places of worship, which Reinbold said was a violation of constitutional rights.

Taylor was confirmed by a combined vote of 35-24. Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, was the only absent member. Only Republican lawmakers voted to confirm Taylor.

[AG defends pandemic emergency orders during hearing]

Lawmakers easily confirmed commissioner appointments for Jim Cockrell to the Department of Public Safety and Lucinda Mahoney to the Department of Revenue, as well as Samantha Cherot as the public defender for Anchorage.

But there was extended debate over the appointment of Kristie Babcock to the Alaska Judicial Council, the body responsible for nominating judges to fill vacancies in the state. Babcock’s husband is former Dunleavy chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock, and some Republicans said opposition to the appointment was political.

But Babcock is replacing a representative from Nome, and Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, said that would leave rural Alaska with no members on the board. Babcock was approved 33-26. Babcock, from Kenai, is one of three public appointees to the board, the other three are members of the Alaska Bar Association and the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.

Lawmakers worked through an 18-page packet of names, each of which was subject to objection from any member. Tuesday’s floor session began at 11 a.m. and continued into the evening. It was still ongoing at 5 p.m. Appointments considered by lawmakers covered a wide variety of boards and councils, from the Board of Massage Therapists to the Alaska Police Standards Council.

Three University of Alaska Regents were also set to be confirmed, including Dale Anderson from Juneau and a replacement for Andy Teuber, who’s presumed dead following a helicopter crash.

The House of Representatives met into the evening Monday passing a bill for the state’s operating budget. That bill was sent to the Senate and lawmakers are hoping to pass an omnibus budget bill before May 19 when the session ends.

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

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