Michael Tavoliero: How a governor proves himself a leader

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By MICHAEL TAVOLIERO

I’ve heard it said that Alaska’s Constitution provides for the strongest governor of any state in the nation. While I don’t know if this is true or not, I will say Article III, Section 23, does give the governor an opportunity to shape the organization of state government. From Alaska’s first governor to its most recent, executive orders play a significant role in the shaping of Alaska’s public policy.

The first sentence of Article III, Section 23 reads: “The governor may make changes in the organization of the executive branch or in the assignment of functions among its units which he considers necessary for efficient administration.”

The governor has two constitutionally promulgated powers. First, the governor may alter the way the executive branch of government is structured. Second, the governor may change the way its various units are assigned functions or responsibilities. 

The caveat to these two powers is that the governor considers these changes to be “necessary for efficient administration”.

The purpose of these changes would be to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the administration of the government. Essentially, the governor has the authority to reorganize the executive branch in a way that he believes will better serve the needs of the state. 

The second sentence reads: “Where these changes require the force of law, they shall be set forth in executive orders.”

An executive order is an order issued under the authority of Article III, Sec. 23, Constitution of the State of Alaska.

Our state history of executive orders started with Gov. Bill Egan’s EO on Aug. 5, 1959, when the governor assigned the functions relating to public health, which prior to May 1, 1959, were performed by the then-Department of Agriculture, to the Department of Natural Resources effective Sept. 1, 1959.

A more recent EO occurred in 2022 when Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Executive Order 121 divided the State’s largest department in two. The reorganization of the Department of Health and Social Services created two separate departments, the Department of Health and the Department of Family and Community Services. 

These are two examples of many in which the governor amended state statutes under the non-objection of the Alaska State Legislature.

Another example, Executive Order No. 104, was under the Murkowski administration. Here, the governor found that amending Alaska Statutes 39, Public Officers and Employees, to transfer the function of administering the equal employment opportunity program from the Office of the Governor to the division of personnel in the Department of Administration would be in the best interests of efficient administration.

Lastly, another recent example: Executive Order No. 120, under the Dunleavy Administration, repealed and replaced an Alaska statute.

The history of executive orders in Alaska demonstrates that Alaska law may be amended, replaced and repealed when the governor considers it is “necessary for efficient administration”.

The last sentence in Article II, Section 23, reads: “The legislature shall have sixty days of a regular session, or a full session if of shorter duration, to disapprove these executive orders. Unless disapproved by resolution concurred in by a majority of the members in joint session, these orders become effective at a date thereafter to be designated by the governor.”

This means if the Alaska Legislature doesn’t like the executive order, they can disapprove it with a majority vote of both houses. This is a 31 legislative member vote. It does not specifically mandate the timeframe for disapproving by resolution only that the legislature “shall have sixty days of a regular session, or a full session if of shorter duration, to disapprove”.  

Constitutional convention delegate Maynard D. Londborg, saw this timeframe as the governor “sets forth an executive order but it does not become effective until it slips through the next session of the legislature without being voted out by the legislature. I suppose you could call it reverse legislation. The governor makes a new law and if the legislature does not want it done away with, well, then they can let it go through, but I think it runs in line with the strong executive we have where he can set forth his changes and the legislature by being silent on it, in that way they approve of the order.”

In 2016, then-Gov. Bill Walker vetoed the full Permanent Fund dividend payment to eligible Alaskans. This was the first time in the history of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend program anything like this had been done. Up until then, Alaskans always had faith in the original process of payments. 

The PFD had never before been politically weaponized.

Then shortly after that, in 2018, the Alaska State Legislature adopted AS 37.13.140, which established the method of determining the amount of the dividend through a term called “the percentage of market value.” To many Alaskans, this conflicted with the established law which operated how the dividend was distributed to the eligible Alaskans.

Since that time the failure to pay the dividend according to the original statute has created political chaos. This made the Permanent Fund dividend the political football of every legislature since. Both Republicans and Democrats ran with every opportunity to throw, hand off and run this ball down field with never a score.

Every legislative session since Walker has seen political fighting over the PFD. As many have noted, without a fix to the dividend fight, Alaska cannot adopt a sensible fiscal plan.

The time to act on the dividend formula is immediate. Alaska deserves better. We are now going into almost a decade where not one legislative session has corrected the situation.

We have seen many legislators work to resolve the issue, but the political will is just not there. It seems the legislature as a body enjoys the confusion and the chaos it creates.

Yet, like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, there has always been a solution.

Our governor has the power to fix this. It is time for an executive order which repeals the POMV and re-establishes the state’s tried and true methodology for determining and distributing the PFD.

Regardless of the hyperbole, we as the public continue to see every legislative session stymied by this crisis. The Alaska governor has the power under Article II, Section 23, to make the changes necessary by executive order.  The Walker, Giessel, and Edgmon debacle of our PFD program has permeated chaos and will continue until an adult steps into the room. 

It is now time for the change as “necessary for efficient administration.”

Michael Tavoliero is a realtor in Eagle River, is active in the Alaska Republican Party and chaired Eaglexit.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Dunleavy has no spine, and less political courage.

    Wasilla emasculated him politically and he’s been useless since.

    Dunleavy isn’t a leader because it’s not in him to lead.

  2. I very much agree with this (but it is too long for most people to read, I think). Since the Walker veto each Leg session has been consumed by arguing over the PFD amount and how the PFD amount will be determined. And every fiscal issue from school debt reimbursement to how to pay for oil tax credits has really been a PFD discussion. I hear arguments that the PFD is payment for the state owning all mineral rights on non-ACSA private land. I hear arguments that the PFD is the non-Native share of Alaska oil wealth. I hear arguments that the PFD is there to keep Alaskans interested enough to protect the PFD from the Leg. We don’t talk about much else, frankly. The Leg goes to Juneau to pass a budget that always exceeds recurring income, and to argue about the PFD. No one knows how to settle this and move on. In fairness I should point out that before the Walker veto it was settled. What an idiot.

  3. Good plan and well pass time to put it into action…..and then spend some time finding away to fix our voting systems as well…clean up the voter rolls and go back to in person voting with No more by mail voting …

  4. Good article, Michael. Bill Egan was not the first governor of the State of Alaska. That was Mike Stepovich of Fairbanks who was appointed governor by President Eisenhower at the date of statehood. Egan beat Stepovich in the first election after statehood.

  5. Michael: “Our governor has the power to fix this. It is time for an executive order which repeals the POMV and re-establishes the state’s tried and true methodology for determining and distributing the PFD.”

    THAT is the dumbest thing you have ever stated.
    POMV is simply an appropriation by the Legislature every year that utilizes a sustainable amount of income from the Permanent Fund. The Legislature can overspend or underspend at their discretion – just as they can ignore their own statuary formula for calculating the Dividend.

    An executive order is powerless and meaningless. What you are really saying is you want more free money and appeal to everyone else’s greed and covetousness for political purposes.

    • Executive order will stand because the voters will decide what happens to politicians that vote to override the EO. A new governor that doesn’t support the original dividend formula will not be elected.

      Dunleavy, Just Do It. And see what happens.

    • Chris, Most people like you that think we are greedy for wanting our share of the PFD, are wealthy from some form of government largesse. You support big government control of the PFD versus the individual right to spend as we choose.

      It’s not greed, it’s our only way to cut government spending.

    • Have you ever sought help for your PFD obsession? You should.

      Do you refuse yours? Do you refuse any other dividends from any other investments you are owed legally?

  6. Dunleavy, it’s just a paper, Tiger, he isn’t tall and stands for weakling. he is afraid of the legislature.

  7. Executive orders are governing by fiat, same as presidential orders. In a representative government we must suffer all three branches. This is especially true in Alaska, which seemingly keeps electing more and more people who defy common sense to the legislature. They either forget that they are making laws for all of Alaskans or simply, in case of the more rabid lefties, want the trash they peddle to actually be foisted on the rest. As for the PFD, the real answer is a constitutional amendment. The trouble with that is the legislature can and does block all of the efforts to make that happen. Dunleavy submitted a bill for that purpose that was conveniently buried due to lack of public support. Then the conservatives called him names like “cowardly lion”. What Alaskans who want the PFD situation settled should do is make the legislators’ life miserable by public pressure until they actually let a bill for a constitutional amendment get on the ballot. Then go out and work like heck to get it passed. Problem solved.

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