JUNEAU, Alaska — A state House committee plans to hear legislation this week aimed at updating the state’s military code of justice.
Alaska’s code was written before statehood and has not been changed substantively since, according to a legislative research brief requested by House Minority Leader Chris Tuck, who is among the legislators who have sponsored legislation to update the code. The National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations, as part of a scathing report on allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct involving Alaska National Guard members released last September, said the current code lacks teeth.
Robert Doehl, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said Forrest Dunbar, a judge advocate general officer, is working with legislators on efforts to update the code. The bill scheduled for a hearing Thursday in the House Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee is sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee. Doehl is part of a new leadership team appointed since Gov. Bill Walker took office in December that also includes Adjutant General Laurie Hummel.
Doehl said several components will be needed: enabling legislation, regulations identifying infractions that would be punishable under the code and an expeditious process to address minor matters. He said the hope is to work with the Legislature to lay the foundation for an effective bill. But he said it’s also important to see what a special investigator tasked with looking into the guard issue has to say — a public report from the investigator isn’t expected until after the legislative session is scheduled to conclude — and to test scenarios under the legislation to see how it would work.
Work on the military code bill is one of the things to watch for this week. Here are two others:
— SULLIVAN SPEECH: U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan is scheduled to deliver his first address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature Monday. It is tradition for Alaska’s U.S. senators to address state lawmakers. Alaska’s senior U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski, addressed lawmakers last month.
— GASLINE CORPORATION BOARD MEMBERS: The House Resources Committee plans confirmation hearings Monday for Gov. Bill Walker’s three new appointees to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC.
Walker upset some lawmakers with a decision earlier this year to remove three of the board’s five public members. Walker said he wanted Alaskans on the board and greater regional representation. He also said he saw this as a lay board, not a professional board.
Removed were Richard Rabinow, a former president of Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co., from Texas; Drue Pearce, a former state lawmaker and federal coordinator for Alaska gas pipeline projects, from Anchorage; and Al Bolea, a former oil company executive, from Big Lake. In their place, Walker appointed former state legislators Rick Halford and Joe Paskvan, and Hugh Short, chairman and CEO of a private equity firm focused on Arctic investments.
Legislation passed in 2013, led by House Speaker Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker, calls for the governor to consider an individual’s expertise and experience with gas pipeline projects, finance, large project management and other areas relevant to AGDC’s duties.
Chenault said he will want to know more about the qualifications of Halford and Paskvan. He said he’s worked with both and both are very smart, “but the background they have in the industry is in this building, I think.”
He noted that confirmations are no longer voted on in committee but advanced to a joint session of the Legislature for consideration. Senate Resources plans a confirmation hearing for Short on Monday, the same day it plans to continue its confirmation hearing of Attorney General Craig Richards. An aide to the committee chair said Short had requested that date and the committee is working on dates for the other board appointments.