JUNEAU - The Legislature refused to confirm a Ketchikan pilot to a second term on the Alaska Board of Marine Pilots on Sunday. Senate President Drue Pearce said his reappointment violated an agreement to rotate the seat on a regional basis.
Michael Spence's reappointment failed 29-30 in a joint session despite protests from Southeast Alaska lawmakers and the Knowles administration that there was no such agreement.
Lawmakers approved 59 of Gov. Tony Knowles' 62 appointments to state boards and commissions without objection. The appointments of former Rep. Katie Hurley of Wasilla to the Alaska Judicial Council and Josh Horst of Juneau to the student seat on the University of Alaska Board of Regents were debated but approved.
Pearce contended that Knowles' reappointment of Spence violated an informal 1995 agreement that the two pilot seats on the seven-member Board of Marine Pilots would rotate between Southeast Alaska, Western Alaska, and Southcentral Alaska.
The three regions have distinctly different shipping traffic and piloting concerns. All ships over 300 tons must carry a qualified Alaska pilot while in state waters.
The Knowles administration and Southeast pilots and lawmakers said the agreement never existed and argued that Spence deserved to remain.
In other legislative action, the appointment of Hurley, a Democrat, to the Judicial Council was fought by Sen. Loren Leman.
Leman, an Anchorage Republican, objected to Hurley's role in a 1998 lawsuit attacking a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at banning gay marriage. In response to the lawsuit, the Alaska Supreme Court altered the wording of that amendment and tossed another amendment off the ballot entirely.
Hurley served as chief clerk of the state's Constitutional Convention.
Democrats leaped to Hurley's defense, saying she should be honored for long service to the state. Hurley's appointment was approved 42-18.
The final vote of the session was over a normally non-controversial appointment - the student representative on the University of Alaska Board of Regents.
Sen. Pete Kelly objected to Horst's confirmation because the University of Alaska Southeast student had opposed a bill granting the university 250,000 acres of state land as a money-raising endowment.
Opponents of the land grant worry it would lead the university to exploit the land hastily and without regard for environmental concerns.
``I want the leader of the students to be someone who knows that money doesn't just grow on trees,'' said Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican. ``Sometimes trees have to get cut. Sometimes bulldozers have to get started up.''
Lawmakers from both parties responded by praising Horst's leadership skills and willingness to consider others' ideas. Horst's reappointment was confirmed 44-15.