Legislature refuses to vote on some Knowles' appointments

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Legislature on Monday refused to confirm any of Gov. Tony Knowles' appointments to the Boards of Fisheries and Game, the University of Alaska Board of Regents or the state Board of Education.

Meeting in a joint session to consider appointments to dozens of boards, the House and Senate adjourned abruptly before taking up what are traditionally the most controversial appointments.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, said Republican majority legislators wanted to allow the next governor to make appointments to those boards.

''It's basically those who have a substantial impact on policy,'' Kott said.

Knowles blasted the Legislature's action, calling it a disservice to Alaskans willing to volunteer for public service.

''In closed political party caucuses, the majority apparently put election-year politics ahead of democracy,'' Knowles said in a written statement.

''The legislative majority's act, if left to stand, will cripple vital state boards,'' Knowles said. ''At a minimum, the citizens who stepped forward to serve their fellow Alaskans deserve a vote, up or down.''

Under state law if the nominees are not voted on before the session adjourns, they are considered rejected and cannot be reappointed to those boards and commissions.

Kott said some of the appointments, such as members of the Board of Regents, would last through 2009.

''You probably want to let that next person (governor) make the appointment for someone who's going to be around for six or eight years,'' Kott said.

Knowles' term ends this year, and he cannot run for a third consecutive term.

Republicans hope U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, a Republican, will be elected governor this fall. He will face Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, a Democrat, in the November election.

After the joint session, Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, urged the House to reconsider.

''Governor's are elected to serve an entire four-year term and during that four-year term, they're entitled to make the appointments they want to make,'' Berkowitz said.

The vote to adjourn without acting on the final appointments fell along party lines in the Senate. Reps. Bill Hudson, R-Juneau; Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage; and Rep. Richard Foster, D-Nome, were the only members of the House Republican majority caucus to vote against adjourning.

Kott said Knowles could make new interim appointments to those boards, but they would have to be confirmed by the next Legislature after the next governor is elected.

Those not confirmed were:

Board of Fisheries: Brett Huber of Soldotna, a former aide to Senate President Halford; Gerry Merrigan of Petersburg, and Art Nelson of Anchorage.

Board of Game: Bruce Baker of Juneau, George Matz of Anchorage, J. Dana Pruhs of Anchorage, Caleb Pungowiyi of Kotzebue, and Michelle Sparck of Bethel.

University of Alaska Board of Regents: Mark Begich of Anchorage; Joseph Hardenbrook of Fairbanks; and Marlene Johnson of Juneau.

Board of Education and Early Development: Roger Chan of Anchorage and Sally Rue of Juneau.

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