Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Friday that he was putting forward Rep. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, to take the Senate seat of the late Sen. Chris Birch.
The governor also said that he wanted to call a third special session of the legislature to allocate more money for this year’s dividend but he wanted to fill the empty Senate seat first.
In a press conference in Anchorage, Dunleavy told reporters he chose Revak because of “his character, his integrity, his resume,” and the fact that he has been elected from that district.
Revak is currently the representative for House District 25, which is within Senate District M, the district Birch represented.
“I feel humbled and honored,” Revak told the Empire by phone Friday afternoon. “I look forward to speaking with all the members of the Senate caucus,” he said.
Revak said he was surprised to hear the governor had put his name forward. Dunleavy called Revak on Thursday to ask if he was interested in the appointment, “that was about the extent of the conversation,” Revak said. “I was very surprised I have to say.”
Earlier this month, the governor had submitted Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, but Senate Republicans failed to confirm him. Shaw told KTVA that he believes his position in supporting a $3,000 Permanent Fund Dividend was the determining factor in his rejection.
“The fact that I stood on a $3,000 dividend — it either offended them or they didn’t want me to be part of their caucus,” Shaw said in an interview with the news channel.
The amount of the PFD was an extremely contentious issue during this year’s special legislative session, with a minority of Republican lawmakers refusing to accept a lower dividend in exchange for the funding of state services.
When the Legislature failed to pass a capital budget during the regular session, a special session was called to pass a budget. The governor initially designated the special session to take place in his home town of Wasilla, but the majority of legislators remained in Juneau.
Only Republican lawmakers went to Wasilla Middle School, where Dunleavy had said the special session would take place. Both Shaw and Revak were among the lawmakers to go to Wasilla. Dunleavy eventually relented and called all lawmakers to Juneau, but the budget and the PFD remained sticking points for the Legislature.
Both Shaw and Revak voted against the bill which allocated a $1,600 dividend.
During the press conference, reporters asked the governor if Revak’s position on the PFD influenced his decision to pick the representative.
Dunleavy said it did not.
“He was elected by individuals in that district, he has the character and the integrity,” Dunleavy said. “(Legislators) have a toolbox they bring to bear on a whole host of issues.”
Asked why he thought the outcome would be different, given the Senate failed to confirm Shaw who was older, with a more extensive resume, Dunleavy said, “he’s a different individual from a different part of the district. That’ll be up to the Senate.”
In the same press conference Dunleavy told reporters he wanted to call a third special session, this time to allocate what he called the remainder of the PFD, roughly $1,310.
The governor and several members of the Legislature believe the dividend amount should be calculated using a formula laid out in a 1982 law. Under that formula this year’s dividend would have been $2,910 according to a press release from the Department of Revenue.
“We believe that the other $1,310 should be appropriated sooner rather than later,” he said. “We’re going to continue to fight for that remaining part of the dividend.”
Dunleavy said that he didn’t want to call a special session with an empty seat in the Senate. Asked what he intended to do about the empty seat left in the House of Representatives, “we’ll have to move quickly,” he said.
The governor said that once the empty Senate seat was filled, he would continue his discussions with the Legislature about a third special session.
A statement from Senate President Cathy Giessel’s office, R-Anchorage, said that Senate Republicans are determining a time to meet to consider Revak’s confirmation.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.