Alaska Changes Senate Appointment Rule

A bill to prevent Alaska governors from making any more long-term appointments to the U.S. Senate became law over the weekend, without Gov. Frank Murkowski's (search) signature.

The law passed after Murkowski appointed his daughter, then state Rep. Lisa Murkowski (search), to fill his Senate seat following his election as governor in 2002. The appointment led to cries of nepotism (search) from some Alaskans.

The new law calls for a special election to be held 60 to 90 days after a Senate vacancy occurs. Previously, the governor could appoint a new senator if less than 2 1/2 years remained in the departing lawmaker's term.

The new law still allows the governor to appoint a replacement, but the replacement would serve only until the special election could be held.

The governor's spokesman, John Manly, said Murkowski did not say why he did not sign the bill. "I'm not aware of any position we took on it," Manly said.

The governor has 20 days to sign or veto a bill once it reaches his desk. If he takes no action, the bill becomes law without his signature.

Legislators passed the law earlier this year after it became clear that a measure to do about the same thing had gathered enough signatures to go on the November ballot.

Sen. Murkowski faces three Republican challengers in the August primary. If she wins, she will run against Democratic former Gov. Tony Knowles (search) in November.