Yesterday, the Alaska State Senate abruptly cancelled today’s joint session of the legislature. The combined State House and State Senate were to gather together to hold confirmation votes on various appointments to boards, commissions and staff positions.
Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth’s confirmation has drawn the most attention. When word got out yesterday that the joint session was canceled, many observers thought it meant that Lindemuth had the votes for confirmation, and that Senate President Pete Kelly was needing more time to try to dislodge her support.
But then came word that there would be no vote at all on any of the folks needing confirmation before the end of the regular session. Day 90, the statutory end of the session, is Easter Sunday; that is just three days away. If no vote is taken, is Lindemuth effectively removed as AG? Is Drew Phoenix, the target of homophobic Alaska Family Council’s angst, denied a seat on the Human Rights Commission?
The Midnight Sun is taking bets that Senator Pete Kelly has a legal opinion that says if the individual is not confirmed because of a lack of a vote being taken, then it’s effectively the same as being voted down. It’s a dramatic move. It may deny Lindemuth’s and Phoenix’s confirmation, but it also denies Adam Trombley’s confirmation to the Board of Game, for instance.
The “Do Nothing” legislature was a theme in last Summer and Fall’s election campaigns. If the State Senate refuses to perform their constitutional duties on confirmations, do they risk bringing that criticism back from the campaign graveyard to haunt them? The US Senate’s Republicans essentially did the same to Obama’s Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland, and as a strategy, it paid off.
We may see a battle of legal opinions between the Governor and State Senate soon. Or perhaps Governor Walker will call a special session to hold confirmation votes. Our favorite is that the State Senate wins the battle, the confirmations are treated as “no” votes, and the nominees lose their positions—and then Governor Walker reappoints every single one of them the next day and the process starts over.