Legislature to hold hearings on Lt. Gov.

Palin acknowledges that Legislature's confirmation required

Posted: Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Alaska Legislature is asserting a role in the appointment of a new lieutenant governor after Gov. Sarah Palin steps down and is replaced by current Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.

That could mean that Palin's choice for appointment may face hearings before committees chaired by two of Palin's leading legislative antagonists.

"The governor quit and went fishing," said Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, House Judiciary Committee chair, who called a committee confirmation hearing for July 20 in Fairbanks.

"Gov. Palin failed to leave specific instructions, so the Legislature is stepping in to bring order to the constitutional chaos she created," he said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has not scheduled a meeting, but Chairman Hollis French, D-Anchorage, said he expects to have a plan to respond by late Thursday.

Ramras has been a frequent critic of Palin on natural gas pipeline and other issues. The Legislature designated French to manage the Troopergate inquiry last year, and Palin's vice-presidential campaign attacked French repeatedly during that process.

Palin on Tuesday acknowledged the need for legislative confirmation, sending letters to House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, seeking confirmation for Lt. Gen. Craig Campbell, commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Also Tuesday, legislative Legal Services Director Tam Cook issued a legal analysis concluding that legislative confirmation appears to be required before a new lieutenant governor can assume office.

If not, Cook said, it may be that Parnell designates a different person to become the state's only statewide elected official besides the governor.

The Legislature had earlier confirmed Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt as the person designated to replace the lieutenant governor, should that position become vacant. Parnell's post will become vacant July 26 with his ascension to governor.

Palin's surprise resignation announcement Friday included a smaller surprise in changing the succession order for the lieutenant governor job. She named Campbell to replace Parnell as lieutenant governor instead of Schmidt.

Some conflicting statements in how the Constitution and statutes should be interpreted leave the situation "somewhat muddied," Cook said in her opinion.

It is not clear whether the confirmation of Campbell will require a special session of the Legislature.

Schmidt took a step today to clear that up by notifying Palin that he was formally vacating the appointment as designee to become lieutenant governor.

"We've got several projects underway, and I can probably serve best right where I'm at," Schmidt said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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