- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

9:37 p.m.

A Senate committee has proposed eliminating the Alaska Public Offices Commission and replacing it with a new body.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Sunday introduced a bill that would eliminate the public offices commission and replace it with the Public Integrity Commission of Alaska.

The public offices commission administers state law regarding election campaign activities, public officials, lobbyists and those who employ lobbyists, and it adjudicates complaints about alleged violations of those laws.

The new body would have oversight over many of the same matters, but would have a different process for adjudicating complaints.

The bill would also make complaints about alleged violations confidential unless the new commission found that a violation had occurred.

The bill would also change other laws related to campaign contribution disclosures and advertising.

9 p.m.

The Alaska Legislature has passed legislation to repeal the state’s film tax credit program.

The vote on reconsideration in the House Sunday was 23-16. The Senate later agreed to changes made by the House.

The film program had already been on track to be idled as part of budget cuts.

7:45 p.m.

The Alaska House has adjourned until Monday, putting the Legislature into overtime, as lawmakers continued to work toward a deal on the budget.

The scheduled end of the 90-day session was Sunday.

The Senate later followed suit, adjourning until Monday.

7:15 p.m.

State lawmakers confirmed two of Gov. Bill Walker’s three appointees to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board, splitting on two former legislators.

The Legislature in joint session confirmed Rick Halford but rejected Joe Paskvan after debating their qualifications. Another appointee, Hugh Short, won confirmation without objection.

Earlier this year, Walker removed three board members, rankling some Republican lawmakers. By law, the governor is to consider when making appointments expertise in areas like gas pipeline construction, finance and that relevant to AGDC’s duties. Rep. Mike Hawker said he didn’t see Halford and Paskvan as qualified.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski asked whether an argument seriously was being made that legislators aren’t qualified to make gas pipeline decisions. The Legislature voted last year to set state participation in a proposed mega-liquefied natural gas project.

4:14 p.m.

Alaska lawmakers have failed to confirm one of the governor’s appointees to the state fish board.

In a joint session on Sunday, the House and Senate rejected Robert Ruffner’s appointment to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, with 29 votes in his favor, and 30 against.

Ruffner, a Soldotna resident, is the executive director of the nonprofit Kenai Watershed Forum.

Lawmakers opposing him, including Sens. Bill Stoltze and Bill Wielechowski, said he would upset the balance of sport and commercial fishing representatives on the seven-member board.

Ruffner said during confirmation hearings that he is a personal use and sport fisherman, but would ultimately prioritize fish, not a certain fishery.

Rep. Les Gara, an avid sport fisherman, said he supported Ruffner and thought putting fish first was appropriate.

2:45 p.m.

The Alaska Legislature has failed to confirm one of the governor’s nominees to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

In a joint session on Sunday, lawmakers rejected Vern Rupright’s appointment to the commission. The vote was 19 in favor, 40 against.

Rep. Louise Stutes, who chairs the House Special Committee on Fisheries, said she objected to his appointment based on his personality and experience. She said she didn’t think he would be a good fit for an adjudicatory body.

The three-member commission decides who can participate in limited-entry fisheries and adjudicates appeals. Commission staff also issues permits and licenses for Alaska’s commercial fisheries.

Commissioner Ben Brown, however, was confirmed, although some lawmakers voted against him citing concerns with the commission’s structure and function.

2:17 p.m.

All of Gov. Bill Walker’s new Cabinet-level department heads have won confirmation.

While many of those appointments won unanimous support, four saw dissenting votes: Attorney General Craig Richards; Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Myers; Revenue Commissioner Randall Hoffbeck; and Commissioner of Military and Veterans Affairs Laurie Hummel.

Richards’ confirmation was the most divisive; he was confirmed 36-23. Hoffbeck was confirmed 47-12.

There were two dissenting votes for Myers and one for Hummel.

Craig Fleener, who was appointed as lieutenant governor successor, should that office become vacant, was confirmed unanimously.

1:53 p.m.

A divided Alaska Legislature has confirmed Craig Richards as attorney general.

The vote during Sunday’s joint session was 36-23.

Richards’ name drew objection on the floor, but no one spoke to that objection. Richards’ is Gov. Bill Walker’s former law partner.

Questions raised during his confirmation process included his past work on behalf of municipalities in litigation over the valuation of the trans-Alaska pipeline system.

Democrats raised questions about Richards signing onto a brief in front of the U.S. Supreme Court defending same-sex marriage bans. Walker said if it was up to him alone, he would have declined signing on. But he said he respected the attorney general’s role on constitutional issues.

The Alaska constitution bans same-sex marriage, which a federal judge last year found unconstitutional.

1:23 p.m.

House Minority Leader Chris Tuck missed his flight from Anchorage to Juneau but is still expected in the capital city later Sunday night, a spokesman said.

Minority spokesman Mike Mason said that, in an effort to spend as much time as possible with his new baby, he missed his flight. He had been expected back in Juneau early Sunday afternoon.

Tuck flew up to Anchorage Sunday morning to be with his partner and newborn baby. He has been the Democratic-led minority’s main negotiator on the budget.

Mason said Tuck will remain involved in negotiations, and the minority’s three Finance members would be involved in face-to-face talks.

The budget has been one of the sticking points as the scheduled end of adjournment loomed on Sunday.

12:08 p.m.

Before lawmakers planned to take up confirmation votes Sunday, a proposed constitutional amendment was introduced in the House to make the attorney general an elected position.

At least 16 members of the Republican-led House majority had signed onto the measure, from Rep. Craig Johnson.

The attorney general is currently an appointed position. Gov. Bill Walker had chosen Craig Richards, his former law partner, to be his attorney general. Richards’ nomination was among those expected to be closely watched as lawmakers took up confirmations.

Proposed constitutional amendments need two-thirds support from each the House and Senate before they can be sent to voters.

A similar proposal is pending in the Senate.

Measures still in play at the end of this regular session remain in play for the next regular session.

11:55 a.m.

The Alaska House has passed legislation to repeal the state’s film tax credit program.

The vote on reconsideration Sunday was 23-16. The bill will go back to the Senate to see if it agrees to changes made in the House.

The film program had already been on track to be idled as part of budget cuts.

9:48 a.m.

Personal business took House Minority Leader Chris Tuck away from Juneau for the start of the last scheduled day of the legislative session: his partner had given birth to a baby girl.

Fairbanks Rep. Scott Kawasaki announced the news on the House floor Sunday. He said he did not know the baby’s weight, but “we know it’s a Democrat, and we know it’s a girl.”

Tuck is an Anchorage Democrat. A spokesman for the minority said Tuck was expected back in Juneau Sunday, as legislators tried to broker agreement on a budget package.

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