Attorney General Taylor defends Gov. Dunleavy’s pandemic response in Senate confirmation hearing

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, at center, briefly lowers his face shield to ask Attorney General Treg Taylor a question during his confirmation hearing on March 24, 2021, in the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. Taylor, seated with his back to the camera, had asked her to clarify a question. Senators Robert Myers, R-North Pole; Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer; Mike Shower, R-Wasilla; and Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, also are seated at the committee table. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)
Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, at center, briefly lowers his face shield to ask Attorney General Treg Taylor a question during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in the Capitol. Taylor, seated with his back to the camera, had asked her to clarify a question. Senators Robert Myers, R-North Pole; Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer; Mike Shower, R-Wasilla; and Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, also are seated at the committee table. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor defended Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold repeatedly asked Taylor whether he found various health mandates to be legal or constitutional. Taylor said he did. 

Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor answers questions during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 24, 2021, in the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)
Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor answers questions during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in the Capitol. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

For example, Reinbold asked Taylor his opinion of the administration distinguishing between essential and non-essential workers in mandates issued last year.

Taylor said it was a challenging time.

“Given the nature of the epidemic, there had to be tough calls made, and the governor chose to make those,” he said. “As the duly elected governor of this state, obviously, he answers to the voters of this state. And we’ll see how the voters react to his policy calls in the upcoming — in the next election.”

Dunleavy’s term ends next year. He hasn’t said whether he plans to run again. 

Taylor said it may be appropriate for the Legislature to amend the Alaska Disaster Act based on the state’s experiences over the past year. 

Juneau Democratic Sen. Jesse Kiehl questioned the legal basis for the three disaster declarations Dunleavy issued after the first declaration expired. Taylor says state law allows governors to issue new declarations. 

Dunleavy wrote Reinbold a letter last month saying the administration would no longer respond to her as the chair of the Judiciary Committee. 

The governor’s office released a statement explaining Taylor’s participation. 

The statement said the administration and Legislature have “a great deal of business to conduct,” and that the administration would work with any committee chair to provide the information they need. The statement added that Dunleavy expects that committee meetings “will be conducted in a professional manner” to accomplish state business. 

The committee didn’t finish questioning Taylor, and Reinbold said he would be invited back for another hearing. 

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