Judge's ruling allows Legislature to behead the executive branch - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, March 5, 2021
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Judge’s ruling allows Legislature to behead the executive branch

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Judge Phillip Pallenberg ruled last week that the Legislature can simply avoid approving the governor’s appointees, thus invalidating those appointments. The ruling has at least one potential major effect: The Legislature can essentially decapitate State government by refusing to meet.

Last year, the Legislature left Juneau without approving Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s 94 appointments, including those to the Board of Fisheries, as well as his new Revenue commissioner and public defender to replace Quinlan Steiner, who resigned. Those appointments expired in December because of the Legislature’s inaction.

If allowed to stand, the decision means the Legislature can hold the governor hostage by gaveling out and leaving those positions subject to expiration.

Alaskans know about commissioners and even the public defender as being critical to the functioning of state government. But equally important are the health professional boards that oversee licenses, and fish and game boards that set seasons and approve guide licenses.

Especially in the first year of any new administration, when a governor has to submit all his or her names for approval by the Legislature, this ruling could allow a recalcitrant Legislature to sandbag the executive branch.

That’s what happened last year under Sen. Cathy Giessel and Speaker Bryce Edgmon.

Pallenberg may have thrown the Alaska government into chaos with his decision that may embolden further refusal to confirm appointments by the Legislature.

The Pallenberg decision came after the Legislative Council filed a lawsuit against the governor, saying his 94 appointees were invalid after Dec. 15, since they lacked confirmation.

Dunleavy said it was his duty to keep the government running and it was the constitutional duty of the Legislature to meet and consider those appointments.

Dunleavy could have made a formal demand for the Legislature to convene, but the pandemic was still raging, and many legislators were fearful of travel. They had already shown an unwillingness to convene outside of Juneau; Dunleavy called them into special session in Wasilla in 2019, and Democrats refused to go.

They had also not passed legislation that would have allowed them to meet remotely, although such legislation had been filed. Giessel and Edgmon did not want to change the rules under which the Legislature operates.

Dunleavy reappointed those 94 individuals when the new Legislature reconvened on Jan. 19, 2021. Once again, they must be confirmed before Dec. 15, or they expire.

Democrats in the House and Senate are reviewing decisions that may have been made by boards and commissions, and Commissioner Lucinda Mahoney in that one-month period, with an eye toward unwinding those decisions through lawsuits.

Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens, who was chair of the Legislative Council when the lawsuit was filed, said the decision affirms the Legislature’s confirmation power.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • And thus the cogs of the giant behemoth grind to a halt for lack of greasing.

  • Great. So the judge is saying that the Legislature has the legal authority to destroy the functioning of the Executive branch. Much as they have already done to the Legislative branch.
    Idiocracy is not just a movie folks.

    • Yeah, that is exactly what the judge said.
      Oh wait, maybe he didn’t. Perhaps that is Nyman’s goofball analysis.
      Get a grip.

      • Oh tell us great one: What did the judge say?
        As I recall, you are one of the goofballs that wants an income tax or to raid the Permanent Fund to continue deficit funding Dividends.
        Talk about C R A Z Y !

  • Time to remove this judge.
    Do you obviously doesn’t understand the three branches of government, the separation of powers and how it works. He is an incompetent. Remove him immediately!

    • Here is a thoughtful point of view grounded in solid analytical thinking.

  • Well, it seems only tit for tat since the governor has been attempting to emasculate both the state supreme court and the legislature. Perhaps the three can agree to leave each others’ body parts in place. Separate but equal doesn’t necessarily imply amputation.

  • We don’t have a representative government, we have a politburo.

    This ruling does in Alaska what happened to Trump nationally. Don’t like the leader? Ignore him. Like him? Let him do whatever he wants.

    This is also what comes of having a feckless GOP. The left refuses to take them seriously. And why should they?
    Either pay the RINOs off to play ball (Giessel) or scare them (Dunleavy) into hiding.

  • If the appointments are good into Dec. then he can just appoint the same people as acting commissioners in Dec. and reappoint the same people when the legislature convenes in Jan. Board appointments would be good till Dec. then reappointed in Jan. A governor could have almost complete control if legislators don’t meet and vote down or up, his appointees.

  • Seems like a pretty good way to limit the size of the government workforce.

    • Seems like you’re clueless about how the government works, but there are lots like you.

      This is just the “Resist” tactic of the communists, excuse me Democrats. This is what they did with President Trump for all four years. At the end of his term he had his Cabinet officers, because the Senate was a Republican Majority, some of their direct reports, and the Congress and federal personnel system just slow-rolled him to keep Obama holdovers in government who constantly sandbagged him, leak, thwarted, and sabotaged him.

      This isn’t the end of the World; the Dunleavy Administration can just give somebody acting status or they can just appoint someone else and they either get confirmed or replaced with someone else; rinse and repeat.

  • Isn’t it amazing that the Gov can’t simply refuse to appoint a judge?

    Funny how the logic only works one way huh?

  • If the legislature is not willing to do their job , why are they getting paid?

    • Brian Anderson, my question: Why are the legislators getting paid “for doing their jobs”? It seems as if there are many personality issues clouding the policy issues in Juneau. Some times I feel like I am back in 8th grade again.

  • Maybe Dunleavy can go to a czar system like the feds in the days of Obama.

  • With every creative, idiotic opinion like this, the AK Judiciary cements a slam-dunk case in support of a Constitutional Convention next year. Keep it up, guys. Cheers –

  • It would appear that in Alaska,as in so many parts of our nation , that the corruption runs so deep that the only thing produced is absolute hatred-no sense in thinking that ANY legislative movement can EVER be done

  • Alaska is in trouble when one judge can change the will of the voters. The incompetent legislature has been a failure for a long time and it’s the republicans fault. They are easily influenced or bought by the leftist state democrats and refuse to make a stand on anything which in turn hurts the people, state and the economy.

  • Kodiak school system is broken, they keep spelling republican in front of Stevens name wrong, it’d actually spelled “democrat”.

  • Recently heard something to the effect that the FBI considers the Alaskan Legislature to be the #1 most corrupt government system of the 50 states and DC; it’s decisions lie these that confirm their conclusion.

    • For decades, off and on, the FBI has ranked Alaska somewhere between first and third as the most corrupt state government.
      Main reason they don’t do anything about it is because the S-48 isn’t overly concerned about “way up there”.

    • One thing is for sure true: A relatively inexpensive political campaign can obtain immense power by controlling 2 seats in the U.S. Senate. Regardless of their faults, Sullivan and Murkowski are not KoolAid Drinking Socialist Democrats hell bent on “fundamentally transforming America”

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