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Alaska Legislature

Alaska Gov. Dunleavy plans remote State of the State speech, citing pandemic ‘complications’

  • Author: James Brooks
  • Updated: January 26
  • Published January 26

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy gives his first State of the State speech to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Senate President Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, back left, and House Speaker Pro Tempore Neal Foster, a Nome Democrat, back right, listen to the speech, delivered in the House chamber. (Michael Penn/The Juneau Empire via AP)

JUNEAU — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s third State of the State address will be delivered from his Anchorage office, not in front of the Legislature in Juneau.

It may be the first time an Alaska governor has not delivered the annual speech in person to the Legislature. The speech will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Thursday on the governor’s Facebook page and public broadcasting.

In a brief written statement Monday night, the governor said his action was caused by “complications created by the COVID global pandemic.” However, Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said the governor’s action was actually caused by the failure of the Alaska House of Representatives to organize and formally invite the governor.

The House remains tied 20-20 between a bloc of Republicans and a bloc that includes Democrats, independents and a single Republican.

“It’s not COVID,” Micciche said. “We can adapt safely to have joint session on the House floor.”

The governor’s office declined to respond to Micciche’s assertion, which he said was based on a conversation with the governor.

Micciche said he believes the Alaska Constitution and state law require the governor to deliver the address in person. The governor’s office did not respond on the record.

“We must be able to deliver the statutorily required processes that include this State of the State address,” Micciche said.

But he said the House’s failure to organize and invite the governor to a joint session has created a “quandary,” and he supports the governor’s decision. He said Dunleavy has already delayed the speech once — it was intended to be delivered last week, he said — and the governor has done everything he can do.

Two years ago, when the House deadlocked for a record 31 days, members of the House were able to select a temporary leader, allowing them to follow the formalities needed to invite the governor to speak on Jan. 22.

On Monday this week, the House failed to even nominate a temporary leader.

In 1981, then-Gov. Jay Hammond delivered his address on Jan. 13 amid a House leadership deadlock lasting more than three weeks.

In 1963, when the state House was tied at 20-20 for eight days and failed to appoint a temporary leader, then-Gov. Bill Egan delayed his address until Feb. 5.