The Alaska State Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The Alaska State Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Capitol Live: Conservative senators fear shift in power

Conservative Senators claim they’re being punished

Summary: The Senate voted to approved the Committee changes, but several Republican legislators strongly objected, claiming they were being punished for voting their conscious.

Giessel said the decision was made by the leadership and by the Republican majority caucus.

The final vote was 13-7.

The senate vote for new committee appointments on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

The senate vote for new committee appointments on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

5:54 p.m.

Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, says he feels the new committee appointments are conservative members being punished for voting for a full PFD.

Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, says she agrees with the previous statements her colleagues have made in objection.

5:47 p.m.

Sen. Laura Reinbold, R-Eagle River, objects to the new committee appointments. She calls the new appointments an “absolute restructuring of power in the Senate,” and says the decisions were made by leadership behind closed doors.

“We were told we could vote on conscience on the PFD,” Reinbold says, arguing that several Republican members who have been stripped of their committee appointments or leadership positions is a result of their votes on PFD.

Reinbold says this moment represents a massive shift to the left in Alaskan politics.

“This report is unacceptable,” Reinbold says. “This is a very serious matter for our republic.”

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, has raised two points of order to Reinbold’s objection, saying she has diverged from the topic.

5:35 p.m.

The Senate reconvenes to discuss the changes made to the various committees.

4:39 p.m.

After lengthy speeches, the Senate takes a 30 minute recess so the Committee on Committees can meet.

4:15 p.m.

Bills are now being introduced and referred to their appropriate committees by the Senate secretary and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage.

4:11 p.m.

The Senate accepts an invitation from the House to hold a joint session on Monday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. for Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State address.

4:01 p.m.

Senators are introducing guests in the gallery.

3:55 p.m.

After a three hour delay, the Senate convenes with no members absent. Senators begin with little ceremony, only an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. The Senate takes a brief at east so the governor and the House can be informed the session has begun.

-Peter Segall

3:30 p.m.

Eastman withdrew his motion.

House transportation meeting is still on.

The House is adjourned until 10 a.m. Jan. 24.

3:10 p.m.

“The wording in the message that the chief clerk provided is standard language, it’s technical language, and I think it suffices at this point,” Edgmon said.

An at-ease was called.

Edgmon said a half-hour could be spent on the matter, but the message is standard.

Eastman maintains he wants his motion acted on, and it’s valid.

This could be a while.

3:05 p.m.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, said he wants it reflected that Gillis had unanimous support from House Republicans in his appointment to Revak’s seat.

An at-ease has been called.

2:40 p.m.

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, has objected to the committee assignments.

It hinged on Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux’s assignment to the Joint Armed Services committee. She fills a spot vacated by former Rep. and current Sen. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage.

“I think a veteran should be assigned to that seat,” Carpenter said.

Shaw is also objecting.

“Just for the value of what it gives this body as a whole, benefits the state as a whole and the veterans community,” Shaw said.

Stutes said the idea that you need to be a veteran to support veterans is foreign to her.

By 23-15, the Committee on Committees report was adopted.

2:36 p.m.

The House is back in session.

2:35 p.m.

The Committee assignments are out. Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, will now chair the Labor and Commerce Committee. Stutes will chair transportation. Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel, will chair the transportation committee.

2:30 p.m.

The House bell rang. Recces should be ending soon. Senate bells have not yet rang.

2 p.m.

Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, said this could be a long recces.

-Ben Hohenstatt

1:55 p.m.

Rep. Zach Fields, D-Anchorage, brings my bolo tie count to two, but I haven’t seen many senators today.

-Ben Hohenstatt

1:52 p.m.

Got a chance to ask Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, why he has his arm in a sling.

“Got a new shoulder,” Shaw said.

Rep. Harriet Drummond is also on crutches, I’ll try to catch up with her at some point.

The Committee on Committees meeting is taking a while. Could mean some changes to committee leadership. We’ll see in a bit.

-Ben Hohenstatt

1:31 p.m.

The House is recessing to let the Senate and Governor know the House is in session and for a Committee on Committees meeting.

1:30 p.m.

Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, said some parents from Glacier Valley Elementary are here today. Juneau Alaska Music Matters students from Glacier Valley performed “Alaska’s Flag” along with students from Sayéik: Gastineau Community School.

Girl Scouts of Alaska handled color guard duties.

1:20 p.m.

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, is introducing her guest, Evan Edgmon, son of the House Speaker. Stutes said it’s the younger Edgmon’s birthday today.

1:10 p.m.

Thirty-eight members are present. Reps. Tarr and Gillis were excused.

1:05 p.m.

The House session wasn’t delayed, but Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, hasn’t banged the gavel yet.

Representatives are exchanging pleasantries, and I’ve heard more than a few, “Welcome backs.”

-Ben Hohenstatt

12:45 p.m.

We’re about 15 minutes out from expected concurrent House and Senate floor sessions.

Most buzz seems to be coming from the Senate side of things, but we’ll have live updates coming from both.

Peter Segall will be in on the Senate session, and I, Ben Hohenstatt, will be with the House.

-Ben Hohenstatt

12:32 p.m.

Student organizer Linnea Lentfer, a junior at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé., says that she wants the legislature to treat climate change like an emergency.

“Because it is an emergency and there no political action that’s treating it that way,” she says.

-Peter Segall

12:21 p.m.

Josephson isn’t the only elected official in attendance.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl and Rep. Andi Story of Juneau, both Democrats, are in the crowd as well. Juneau assembly member and Story staff member Greg Smith is there, too.

-Peter Segall

12:20 p.m.

The call for divestment is a recurring one from the local chapter of a grassroots environmental organization.

[Read about a past call for divestment here]

-Ben Hohenstatt

12:18 p.m.

About 50 people are gathered across the street from the Capitol to protest what they are calling a ‘climate emergency’

Elaine Schroeder of 350Juneau, the group which organized the protest, calls for the state to divest from fossil fuel companies.

“We must act as if our hair is on fire,” Schroeder says. “We demand substantial and rapid government action to combat carbon emissions.”

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, spoke to the crowd saying that he intends to introduce a bill that would create a special commission on climate change in the House.

“The current administration is disinterested,” in tackling climate change, Josephson says.

Peter Segall

10:52 a.m.

So far, things are still ramping up at the capitol. I’ve checked in with some of the lawmakers who were active in prefiling bills, but seems like folks are likely to be tied up until after the dual floor sessions at 1 p.m.

-Ben Hohenstatt

9:55 a.m.

I’m keeping track of the number of bolo ties in the building today. So far, I’ve seen only one, and it was on the Empire’s Michael. S. Lockett.

-Ben Hohenstatt

[Ferries, the budget and the PFD: Here’s what Alaska lawmakers will tackle this session]

9:15 a.m.

Today is the first day of the 31st Legislature’s second session.

Both the Senate and the House are scheduled to convene at 1 p.m. The House Transportation Committee will hold a 2 p.m. meeting for a presentation on the Importance of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

A joint Committee on Legislative Ethics meeting is slated for 3 p.m., and a House Health and Social Services is on the Legislature schedule for 3:30 p.m.

At noon, an environmental rally organized by 350 Juneau is expected in front of the capitol.

Before all of that excitement, we, Ben Hohenstatt and Peter Segall, will be making the rounds to check in on prefiled bills, what lawmakers are talking about today and what we might expect on Day 1.

-Ben Hohenstatt


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt


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