Does it seem like everyone is suing the Dunleavy Administration? A growing number of legislative and budgetary lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks and months, most of them against the Dunleavy Administration, but one lawsuit is actually on behalf of the governor’s actions. It’s hard to keep track, so we made a list:
- Venue of Special Session II-Juneau: Al Vezey, through his attorney Bill Satterberg, has sued the presiding officers of the House and Senate for not convening the second Special Session in Wasilla, as ordered by the governor. Gov. Michael Dunleavy called the session for July 8 in Wasilla, but Sen. President Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon refused the call and gaveled in in Juneau. The governor on July 17 relented and called the Special Session to Juneau. The legal question is whether Dunleavy has the right to name the venue for a special session that he calls. The Attorney General says the governor has that right, by Alaska Statute. Giessel and Edgmon say they have the right to change it if they want.
- Venue of Special Session II-Wasilla: Anchorage attorneys Kevin McCoy and Mary Geddes have sued the governor for calling the special session in Wasilla. They say the session should have been called to Juneau.
- Education funding: The Legislative majorities are suing the Dunleavy Administration because he withheld $20 million in what he says are illegally appropriated funds. The legal question is: Does the Legislature have the power to appropriate years into the future if it hasn’t actually set the money aside? In other words, appropriate money it doesn’t have and bind future legislatures and governors. The Attorney General says no and that the Constitution spells out annual funding processes.
- Abortion and the courts: The ACLU is suing the governor for cutting the administrative overhead of the Alaska Supreme Court. In Dunleavy’s explanation for the cuts, he said if the courts insisted that the State pay for elective abortions, then the money will need to come from the court’s own budget, because the Legislature and the governor are against public funding of elective abortions. The ACLU says this is a breach of the separate branches of government and was retaliatory.
- Medicaid reimbursement cuts: The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association sued Dunleavy Administration over cuts made to Medicaid reimbursements. The cuts were made via emergency regulations. The lawsuit was filed by former Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and Scott Kendall, who was chief of Staff to Gov. Bill Walker. They filed it on behalf of ASHNA.
- Education funding: The Coalition for Education Equity is suing the Dunleavy Administration for being slow to release funds for the 2019 fiscal year. These funds were eventually released by the Administration, but the lawsuit remains open.
- All the cuts: Attorney Jahna Lindemuth has told reporters that she is considering suing the Dunleavy Administration over a wide range of the budget cuts. Lindemuth is on record saying the cuts are unconstitutional, citing Article 7 of the Alaska Constitution, establishing the University of Alaska and specifying that the Legislature shall provide for the promotion as well as the protection of public health. Lindemuth may have an ethical problem suing her former client, the State of Alaska.
- Privatization of Alaska Psychiatric Institute: The Alaska State Employees Association is suing the Dunleavy Administration for privatizing API. The union says that privatizing the institution violates the Alaska Constitution, Alaska Statutes, and the group’s collective bargaining agreement.
- Wrongful termination: The ACLU in January filed lawsuits on behalf of former state attorney Libby Bakalar, Anthony Blanford, and John Bellville. All three were released by the Dunleavy Administration. They say they were fired for refusing to pledge political support for the governor’s agenda. Belleville and Blanford were psychiatrists at Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Bakalar worked in the Department of Law.