Game of Thrones: Some legislative leaders push back on governor’s emergency order, want special session



Behind the scenes in Alaska’s legislative leadership, leftist sparring with the governor and incoming Republican leadership is playing out, as progressives in charge of the House and Senate try to game Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his emergency orders.

The gamesmanship is centered on the governor’s recent emergency declaration. Leftists, who will lose control of the Legislature in January, want to push for a special session that would allow them to do veto overrides or even move CARES Act money around to their priorities.

Senate President Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon on Friday issued a statement warning that without legislative approval, Dunleavy’s new emergency declaration is on shaky legal footing.

While it’s not likely the two could sue over the declaration (that would require action from Legislative Council), they might be setting up a scenario for surrogates to do so, such as liberal lawyer Scott Kendall, who heads up the Recall Dunleavy Committee, or the litigious ACLU. Even Juneau lawyer Joe Geldhof, who sues over such constitutional matters, might be persuaded to take up the cause.

Giessel and Edgmon want the governor to call the Legislature into special session, since they say they do not have the votes to call for a special session themselves. It takes 40 votes.

Giessel and Edgmon promised in a note to the governor that if he calls a special session, they will try to not expand the agenda beyond the actual emergency order, but there’s little doubt a game is afoot, with veto overrides being among the most likely goal.

This is lame-duck leadership that looks to put sideboards on the next legislative organization, and time is running out on their shift at the helm.

On Friday, Dunleavy announced the new 30-day Declaration of Public Health Disaster Emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The declaration goes into effect on 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 16, and expires on 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 15. He would need legislative approval to extend it, or he could make another declaration, with different rationale — but at the peril of inviting a lawsuit.

Without an emergency declaration, the State can no longer run a unified command operation, hospitals cannot have flexibility to designate certain wings or even a hotel as an isolation unit, if needed, and telemedicine flexibility would end.

The COVID testing at the airports for incoming travelers would disappear, and the reserve hospital set up at the Alaska Airlines Center on the UAA campus would be dismantled. Federal receipt authority is also at stake. People would not be able to get their business done online with the state government, such as renewing their drivers licenses, as hundreds of now-suspended regulations would return to normal status.

Even the regulation limiting the amount of time children can be on computers at schools would return to normal, making distance education impossible.

Dunleavy’s initial March 11 disaster declaration was to address a pending outbreak of COVID-19. At that point, only a couple of cases of the virus had been detected in the state.

The upcoming declaration refers to an outbreak that is now underway. The number of cases diagnosed in Alaska is nearly 18,000 and the daily infection count rose to 600 on Friday, nearly double what it was a week earlier.

“Recent conversations with legislators, health professionals, and business leaders confirm a broad consensus that it is in the state’s best interest to ensure we have an emergency declaration in place beyond November 15,” Dunleavy said.

“This new disaster declaration is based upon the determination of moving from the threat of a pandemic to an actual pandemic. Given the tools the declaration will provide to the state, boroughs, and municipalities, as well as our health professionals and medical facilities, this declaration will continue to provide certainty to Alaskans during this pandemic. The Legislature has indicated they do not currently have the support of their members to call themselves into a special session. If the Legislature chooses to convene to address this new order, my administration is ready to assist in developing long-term solutions to manage this emergency and protect the public safety and health of Alaskans.”

In October, Giessel stated to public broadcasting that she was unconcerned about the emergency declaration expiring, saying community public health efforts are more important. 

“We have some good, functional logistics in place now in the state,” Giessel said on Oct. 2. “Communities are very nimble in recognizing when they need to shut down.” It was her opinion then that a statewide emergency declaration was no longer needed.

Now, left-leaning legislators, who understand that they will lose power on Jan. 18 when the new Legislature convenes, would like to convene in some way.

Discussions have been underway among those such as hardcore Democrats Rep. Zack Fields and Tiffany Zulkosky, who have been pushing the statewide mask mandate, about how the Legislature might convene via teleconference, using the Zoom program. But how that would circumvent public participation and process is another legal concern for Alaskans.

It was just 18 months ago that leftist legislators refused to convene in a special session that the governor had called in Wasilla, saying it was illegal to convene anywhere but Juneau.

Meanwhile, there are no protocols in place in the Alaska State Capitol to prevent an outbreak if lawmakers suddenly arrive next week to try to hash out the various wants and needs that would arise once they convene.

The public health director in Juneau told legislators it was nearly a guarantee that there would be an outbreak in the Capitol.

Whatever happens next with the governor’s emergency orders, he can only declare an emergency for 30 days at a time without legislative authority, and he cannot extend it after Dec. 15 without some legally sound reason. This means the inevitable end of the flexibility that has allowed the state to function with its hundreds of loosened regulations since last March 11.


  1. Let it expire no reason to keep this up. Go back to normal everyone will eventually get it. The only way to beat it is to build immunity. Can’t do that under the current situation.

  2. i for one have to say, stop all this covid Bs. it is a virus and nothing we are doing is doing anything except killing business

  3. I’ll tell you, for a guy who was elected under the premise of supporting “limited government”…
    Governor Dunleavy sure has imposed the most mandates, lock-downs, & emergency orders than any Republican Governor in Alaska’s history?
    The flying requirements for testing have killed the tourist economy…now as the holiday season approaches, families do not want to travel for visits and look at the mess in Anchorage.
    Death rates have peaked months ago with this virus and many doctors like Ron Paul state that a positive test DOES NOT equal a CASE since many of these people are never sick.
    There are also many “false positives” that test negative their second attempt.
    The only responsible thing to do is to put the power back in the Legislature’s hands.
    If they do not have the votes required to extend the mandate then honor the elected representative process and get back to working on problems and budgets like they are paid to do.
    The office of governor was never meant to be a dictatorship and 10 months under emergency order is more than enough.

    • As you know comrade, these are unprecedented trying times. Governing must be kept fluid based on the changing conditions. This will mostly go away when the shot comes out next month. Anything Bryce and Cathy come up with is a bad thing. They may be feeling a little insignificant. What a cute photo of the lovely couple though.

  4. There is no pandemic, and a case without symptoms is not a case at all. Time to put an end to this scam and for AWOL Mike to stop the irrational fear mongering.

  5. Why did Dunleavy make another emergency declaration when it is just a nothing burger flu?

    There are only about a 100 people in our hospitals with covid-19. How many because of Covid-19 we are not told. That is just .01% of our population-a rounding error at best.

    Is he on Soros’ payroll?

    Follow the money.

    • It’s not a hoax. I know people who have had Covid-19 and it’s awful. Maybe you haven’t been effected and therefore think it’s not real? Let’s do what we can as a community to keep each other safe.

  6. Sure they want a special session for the emergency order extension …So they can load it up with pork the gov will deny. All a trap to help the recall folks. These people are sick.

  7. Where would we be without the granting of Emergency Powers, which implemented the CDC guidelines ? The pandemic would have ended in 4 months (like Sweden) , none of the lockdowns would have happened. Masks would be optional, and schools, businesses and churches would be open. Our economy would not be in shambles, not as much as it is anyway. Who is in favor the Emergency Powers ? Those who are supporting the New World Order takeover of our Country. It can only be hoped that Dunleavy has crossed the line in extending his own Authority for this “emergency”, one that was initiated back in March… The Global-Left will surely be supporting him !

  8. Dunleavy introduced the bill last spring to declare the health emergency. He proposed that it be effective for 1 year. Before they bailed out of town legislators bent over backwards to tweak the governor and cut that down to 6 months. Now they’re pounding on him to fix their screw-up.

  9. The “emergency” never showed up, the response to the incredibly overstated impact of the virus has financially crippled many citizens and resulted in millions of dollars in unnecessary expenditure. It has also allowed the oligarchy in Anchorage to spend millions of dollars counter the the wished of the constituency. The disaster declaration needs to be ended and our state needs to stop living in fear so we can prepare for the grim economic forecast that exists for the next 3 to 4 years.

  10. Alaska is a strange place. A viking can claim to be a native, get elected to the house, promoted to speaker, take away pfd money, and change his stripes into a fence sitting independent. Anything is possible in the land of Alaska.

  11. Ms. Downing: In regard to the speculation about someone having me litigate the Governor’s authority and ability unilaterally declare an emergency in our little state, I am pleased to inform you and your readers that having been asked to litigate this matter and after evaluating the matter, I passed.

    Setting aside the merits of interpreting the relevant law (hey, it;s not like this administration is bent on following constitutional principles or statutory law via originalism, textualism or any other ascertainable standards), why would anyone with anything approaching a full set of marbles want to get involved in litigating with the State of Alaska? The current Office of the Attorney General for the State of Alaska is more or less being run in a dysfunctional manner. Conducting litigation where dysfunction is the norm is sort of like watching paint dry. No fun and besides, who has the time to wait around anymore? Not me.
    In any event, it isn’t clear what the Governor is trying to do or obvious that our Governor has some thoughtful plan on how to accomplish whatever he thinks he is trying to do. So what would be the point of litigating? Even if one were to prevail, it will be nothing more than a triumph of an abstract principle and not likely to yield any tangible results that will either protect the rights of individual Alaskans or advance important constitutional principles.

    The actual emergency we are facing in Alaska at present is a government that is unable to respond thoughtfully to a variety of problems — the issue revolving around the pandemic being but one among a multitude. We are in a time when many of our elected officials are just making things up as they grope about according to pre-conceived notions of what they think is best without regard to genuine principles or even what the Alaska Constitution or state statutory law requires.

    On behalf of myself, I wish Governor Dunleavy and our elected and appointed officials the very best of luck. The Governor and our elected officials, including Senator Reinbold and all the other thoughtful individuals we elect to conduct the civic affairs of our state can work this out in the interest of the public they swore an oath to protect and serve according to the Alaska Constitution.

    And for all of you folks commenting on this little column who are convinced the COVID 19 pandemic is nothing more than a bumped up flu or some conspiracy to destroy your rights, I appreciate your sentiments. I apprehend there is no need to wear a mask. OK, don’t do it. But do consider obtaining and wearing a tin hat. If nothing else, wearing a tin hat will give all of us ignorant folks a sure indication as to your beliefs and value system.

    We get what we deserve in this little democracy up here.

    Onward ———————————

  12. It is mind-boggling to me to see the amount of angst and “sky is falling” hype over the number of cases of the virus. People are getting tested because of travel, because of local mandates, some because of employer requirements….but very few because of symptoms. How much of a rate of infection would we see for (_______, say the seasonal flu) if testing was done in the absence of symptoms?
    No one goes to the doctor for anything else in the absence of symptoms. Why the surprise over increasing rates of covid when testing has apparently become a participant sport?

  13. In this instance, blood is thinner than water. Congratulations, Senator-elect Holland. Most of the family backed you. Even Mom.

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