After a fraught and challenging first session of the 30th Legislature faced with historic revenue shortfalls and an almost $3 billion deficit, Governor Walker’s nominees for Boards and Commissions were finally heard in a joint floor proceeding by the House and Senate yesterday. This series of votes came at the tail end of the constitutionally-allowed 121 day session, following postponement of a vote last month by the Senate Majority that offered little explanation as to the delay.
These votes, which should not be political in nature, have in recent years been weaponized by Republicans in the state House and Senate. Surprisingly this year, after hours of floor debate that seemed to suggest otherwise, almost all—97 of 98— of the Governor’s nominees were confirmed by both bodies. The sole nominee voted down was Pastor Drew Phoenix, a highly qualified candidate that was the subject of attack by Jim Minnnery’s far-right Alaska Family Action group.
Alaska Democratic Party Chair Casey Steinau supported the Governor's choice of Phoenix and is tremendously disappointed that this nominee for the Human Rights Commission was voted down by a 25 – 34 vote yesterday. “For so many of us in Alaska, Drew was the perfect nominee for this position—his past career experience coupled with his education and support in the community ought to have resulted in a unanimous vote by the legislature. However, simply because he is a transgender individual, fear and hatred skewed the process and resulted in a rejection of a nominee that we were, frankly, lucky to have in the first place.”
Other nominees whose confirmation votes were held up due to political reasons—Jahna Lindemuth for AG, Andy Mack for Natural Resources Commissioner, and former State Senator Hollis French for AOGCC—were all confirmed after a 4.5 hour debate on the floor.
ADP Executive Director Jay Parmley reminds us that this is why elections are so important. “When Alaskans vote for their legislators they expect them to consider the Governor’s appointees based on experience and credentials. This is not the place for political grandstanding. The actions of the legislature in rejecting the nomination of Drew Phoenix only further divides us and robs us of a greater conversation about human rights.”
For more information, please contact Katie Bruggeman at 907-570-4523.