Commissioners win confirmation
Gov. Bill Walkerís industry-related appointments all won confirmation when the Alaska Legislature met in joint session May 16, day 120 of the constitutionally mandated 121-day Legislature, but well beyond the 90-day session imposed by voter mandate in 2006.
The governor had called legislators into joint session in late April for confirmation votes but there was an immediate move to adjourn, with Republicans in the House minority and Senate majority Republicans carrying that motion.
The May 16 joint session was, as is the normal practice, by agreement between the House and Senate. Some appointments failed to win approval, but none of those were oil and gas industry related.
All cabinet-level appointments were approved: Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack was confirmed along with Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
Three seats on the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. were up for approval - Warren Christian of North Pole, Hugh Short of Girdwood and David Wight of Anchorage - and all won approval with a 58 to 1 margin.
Dan Seamount, who holds the geologist seat on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, won confirmation for his reappointment without objection.
The case was not the same for his fellow commissioner, Hollis French, whose confirmation faced headwinds. French was nominated for the public seat on the commission, and did win confirmation in a 35 to 24 vote, but only after lengthy discussion following a call on the House (requiring all members to be present) and failure, by a 29 to 30 vote, of a motion to table consideration of his name to the last item of the day.
After that motion, House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, questioned whether the move was intended to leave some appointments hanging and said he wanted Frenchís confirmation taken up immediately. The House voted 17 for and 22 against tabling, with the Republican minority all voting for tabling; in the Senate, where French, a Democrat, formerly served, eight members voted to table and 12 opposed, with some Republicans voting with the minority Democrats against tabling.
In debate on Frenchís confirmation, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, the Senate majority leader, said he had process concerns, saying French had been a great senator, but that he was concerned about Frenchís ability to work on what Micciche characterized as a consensus board.
Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Anchorage, called French a thoughtful man but said constituents had urged her to vote no on his confirmation which spurred some investigation on her part and raised issues, including whether French was advocating for additional jurisdiction for the commission over the loss of fuel gas in Cook Inlet due to a pipeline leak.
Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, argued that French would represent the public fairly while Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said the other AOGCC commissioners supported French in testimony and he hadnít heard that support had been withdrawn.
Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, said House Resources asked French about the waste issue and said she believed he was acting in his role as a commissioner on a commission charged to prevent resource waste.
- KRISTEN NELSON