Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to local leaders at the Alaska Municipal League’s legislative conference in this February 2020 photo. (Peter Segall/ Juneau Empire File)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to local leaders at the Alaska Municipal League’s legislative conference in this February 2020 photo. (Peter Segall/ Juneau Empire File)

Lawyers for Dunleavy want part of law on appointments tossed

Appointments are at center of dispute.

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press

Attorneys for Alaska are asking a judge to strike down provisions of law dealing with government appointments amid a dispute between Gov. Mike Dunleavy and lawmakers who did not meet to consider his picks for his Cabinet, boards and commissions.

The state’s counterclaim last week comes in a lawsuit brought by the Legislative Council. The council, composed of House and Senate leaders, says the appointments Dunleavy presented in early 2020 lapsed in December after lawmakers failed to act on them. The council has asked a judge to block Dunleavy from continuing with those appointments and from reappointing people to posts until the start of the next legislative session on Jan. 19.

The lawsuit stems from an “unprecedented usurpation of the Legislature’s confirmation power,” legislative attorneys Megan Wallace and Hilary Martin said in court papers.

Typically, the House and Senate meet during the regular legislative session to consider appointments. But amid COVID-19 concerns last March, lawmakers passed a law allowing them to adjourn and take up confirmations later.

The law said that if lawmakers didn’t act on the appointments either a month after an initial pandemic disaster declaration expired or by Jan. 18 — whichever was first — that amounted to them declining to confirm those people. The declaration ended Nov. 15.

Assistant Attorneys General Margaret Paton Walsh and William Milks asked a judge to declare that provision unconstitutional, along with another part of the law barring the governor from reappointing someone who wasn’t confirmed in the period between legislative sessions.

They contend lawmakers violated their legal and constitutional responsibilities to meet to consider Dunleavy’s appointments.

A hearing on the matter has been set for Friday.

This isn’t the first fight between Dunleavy, a Republican former state senator, and the Legislature’s current leadership, who in 2019 pushed back on Dunleavy’s proposed budget cuts and refused to meet for a special session in Wasilla, his chosen location.

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