Lawmakers are wondering if their November plans should include a quick trip to Juneau even though Governor Michael Dunleavy recently issued a new 30-day Declaration of Public Health Disaster Emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The declaration will go into effect on 12:01 a.m. on November 16, 2020 and will expire on 11:59 p.m. on December 15, 2020.
Juneau State Senator Jesse Kiehl told his constituents in his November 9 newsletter that there’s a wrinkle, saying, “It's illegal for the governor to issue a second declaration about the same condition. He's claiming the first emergency was a potential pandemic and this one is the actual pandemic. That's legally... ridiculous. The legislature explicitly mentioned the arrival of the virus in our state when we extended the first declaration.”
Kiehl suggests that the legislature doesn't currently have the required 40 legislators willing to vote to call a special session, but a special session should be called to mitigate risk factors.
In a press release the governor suggested that, “Recent conversations with legislators, health professionals, and business leaders confirm a broad consensus that it is in the state’s best interest to ensure we have an emergency declaration in place beyond November 15.”
If the governor called a special session, Kiehl contends, “there'd be no legal risk to doctors and hospitals when a judge throws out an illegal second declaration of emergency. There'd be no financial risk to the state. We wouldn't have to spend money in court. And it would respect the separation of powers.”
Dunleavy acknowledged the lack of political will to call a special session in the legislature, a sentiment that is apparently shared by his Administration, stating, ”The Legislature has indicated they do not currently have the support of their members to call themselves into a special session. If the Legislature chooses to convene to address this new order, my administration is ready to assist in developing long-term solutions to manage this emergency and protect the public safety and health of Alaskans.”