JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker signed an executive proclamation Wednesday calling the Alaska House and Senate into joint session to take up consideration of his new Cabinet-level appointments and appointments to boards and commissions.
He called the session for Friday, the date for which the session had initially been scheduled before being canceled earlier this week.
Walker, in a news release late Wednesday afternoon, said he was concerned about a February legal memo requested by the Senate president’s office on what happens if the Legislature doesn’t meet to take up appointments, along with the cancellation.
“It leaves me little choice but to issue this proclamation to ensure that we fulfill our fiduciary obligation to Alaskans so government continues to function,” he said. “The risk that these hardworking Alaskans will not have the opportunity of a confirmation vote is unacceptable.”
Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said he and House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, met with Walker on Wednesday morning and said they intended to take up the confirmations. Meyer said the proclamation wasn’t necessary.
Walker spokeswoman Grace Jang said by email that legislative leadership was not specific as to when appointments would be taken up.
House Majority Leader Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, said she was a little shocked by the proclamation, given that Walker’s new appointment to the state board of education was read across Wednesday. The appointment replaces a nominee who withdrew.
Millett said it appeared some of Walker’s nominees could have trouble winning confirmation and the idea was to push back the joint session to give the governor time to build support for those nominees or recognize that some might not be confirmed. She said she thought it was a good idea.
“There was no ill will at all,” she said of the cancellation. She noted, too, that confirmation hearings can take hours, and lawmakers are working to try to finalize an operating budget in conference committee.
The joint session is one of the last big pieces remaining as the scheduled end of the 90-day session looms on Sunday. There’s also the budget and Walker’s push to expand Medicaid coverage, which he has called a must-have. It’s a sentiment that some members of the Republican-led House and Senate majorities do not share.
Walker also has until Saturday to decide whether to veto legislation passed this session that would restrict participation of a state-sponsored corporation in an alternate gas pipeline project that he has proposed.