- Associated Press - Thursday, July 21, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Gov. Bill Walker has rejected legislation that would have put lawmakers on the board of the state-sanctioned corporation promoting development of Alaska’s North Slope gas, citing constitutional concerns in a veto made public Thursday.

The bill passed in April and sponsored by state Sen. Mia Costello, an Anchorage Republican, would have put three lawmakers on the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. in non-voting and unpaid roles.

The bill’s supporters said it would give lawmakers a better understanding of the board’s work and decisions and bring lawmakers’ experience to the board.

In issuing the veto, Walker cited a constitutional provision barring legislators from holding dual offices.

Under the bill, even in non-voting roles, legislators would influence board decisions while having the power legislatively to determine funding for the corporation and change its statutes, he said.

The board includes two state department heads and public members chosen by the governor who must be confirmed by the Legislature. Republican legislative leaders have frequently been at odds with Walker over the makeup of the board. His Wednesday veto was made public via a legislative bill tracking website on Thursday.

Walker agreed with Costello that it’s important for legislators and the public to have as much information as possible about the actions of the corporation, a key player in state efforts to advance a major liquefied natural gas project. The proposed project would involve an 800-mile pipeline and gas liquefaction facilities in south-central Alaska.

He said he would encourage the corporation to continue providing information to lawmakers and said he would continue meeting with key lawmakers to update them on gas line issues. Walker was a Republican but changed his party affiliation to undeclared for his successful 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

In a memo to House Speaker Mike Chenault in March, legislative counsel Emily Nauman said that without additional guidance from the courts, it is difficult to conclude whether having uncompensated legislators serving on the gas line board is unconstitutional.

Senate President Kevin Meyer called the veto troubling in a statement Thursday, saying a legislative presence on the board would provide for greater transparency and accountability.

The Senate majority in a statement said legislators serve on numerous state commissions and on the boards of state corporations, including the Alaska Aerospace Corp.

But some of those appointments also could be problematic, according to the Department of Law.

In a legal opinion sought by Walker dated Tuesday, the Alaska Department of Law said it was unconstitutional for legislators to serve as non-voting directors of the aerospace corporation and the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority.

The opinion signed by senior assistant attorney general Jerome Juday also found that having legislators serve on the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is unconstitutional. It found that having legislators serve on the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s board is probably unconstitutional.

The opinion states that there are likely no constitutional violations with legislative service on numerous other boards that Walker inquired about. Those include the Alaska Tourism Marketing Board and the Alaska Health Care Commission.

Juday said the constitutionality of a legislator serving on executive branch boards and commissions hinges on what the panel does.

“If the board or commission serves an advisory function only, then the constitution likely does not prohibit a legislator from serving on the board or commission.”

___

Follow Becky Bohrer at https://twitter.com/beckybohrerap .

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide