Alaska Gov. Dunleavy Urges Legislature to Fund More Legal Action Against Biden Administration

mike dunleavy
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy shakes hands with state legislators as he prepares to deliver the 2023 State of the State address to the Alaska legislature on Monday, January 23, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

In his annual address to the Alaska Legislature, Governor Mike Dunleavy identified the successes of his first four-year term and called for action on a list of administration priorities, including increased funding for an “advocacy for statehood” program. which has launched a series of lawsuits against the federal government.

Speaking Monday night at the state Capitol in Juneau, the governor also said he would work with state legislators to make Alaska “the most pro-life state in the entire country.”

Doing so, he said, would require affordable housing, improved education, economic opportunity and quality of life. Dunleavy also said it would be important to consider life “from the moment of conception onwards.”

It did not include a firm proposal to meet those objectives.

In June, following the US Supreme Court’s decision to quash Roe v. Wade, the governor said that this year he would introduce a constitutional amendment related to abortion. He hasn’t done so yet, and officials in the governor’s office didn’t say if he’ll introduce one.

“Alaska has constitutional protection for abortion, so I suspect, though I don’t know, that it will propose a constitutional amendment,” said Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage.

Rep. Calvin Schrage, I-Anchorage and House Minority Leader, said in a written statement that he was encouraged by the governor’s speech and hopes it means that in areas like the state’s basic student allocation, he will support “investment in maternal education and child health, raising BSA education funds, and restoring defined benefits to our hard-working public employees.”

Lawmakers generally praised the speech and said they are optimistic the governor’s second term will mark a change in the administration’s often combative relations with the Legislature in its first four years.

“Overall, it was a forward-thinking and positive speech, but I guess the devil is in the details, and I look forward to hearing the details,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage.

Although the governor’s “pro-life” message was lacking in detail, other elements of his speech have already made their way into his budget.

One of the administration’s biggest pushes is expanding its defense of statehood initiative, which funds lawsuits against the federal government, often using contract attorneys.

“When federal agencies are clearly wrong, when they are misinterpreting the Statehood Act, ANILCA or other laws that govern our relationship with the federal government, we have an obligation to stop them,” Dunleavy said, referring to the Alaska National Interest Lands of 1980. Conservation Act that preserved much of the land in Alaska.

House Speaker Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said that’s in line with the priorities of the majority of the House coalition.

The administration has already requested and received millions of dollars that it has used for lawsuits on a variety of issues, and the governor’s most recent budget calls for an additional $10 million for the effort.

Lawmakers say they are interested.

“I think we need to keep moving forward and protect our natural resources to make sure we stay in business,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka and co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Governor also requested $5 million to promote Alaska as an area of ​​opportunity for new businesses. The North to Opportunity program, as the governor called it Monday, is an existing effort that the Dunleavy administration has already used to advertise Alaska to fishing companies, tourism companies, aerospace companies and even US Navy SEALs. USA

Dunleavy said he would “declare war on fentanyl,” a drug that has contributed to a growing number of deaths in Alaska and elsewhere.

Skagway police suspect two drug overdose deaths over the weekend in that community were related to fentanyl, and the governor has already said he will introduce legislation to increase criminal penalties for drug dealers whose product results in a death.

Shortly before the governor’s speech, a 100-person rally outside the state Capitol urged Dunleavy and lawmakers to increase the state’s per-pupil funding formula, known as the basic student allowance.

That topic is expected to come up frequently in this year’s legislative session, but the governor’s speech failed to mention it and lawmakers noted its absence.

“I wish I had talked more about education,” said Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak. “I don’t think we’ve heard a lot of specificity about how we would solve that problem.”

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Andrew Kitchenman with questions: [email protected] Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.