The Alaska House solidified plans for a joint session to hear new Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State Address with ease, but electing a permanent Speaker of the House remains elusive.
Today marks the eighth day of the 31st Legislative Session, and the rules require Speaker Pro Tempore Neal Foster, D-Nome, to ask for nominations. With no majority caucus, and no House Speaker and no committees formed, the House has not been able to conduct its business. Typically, House organization is completed on the first day of session.
Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, nominated Healy Republican Rep. Dave Talerico for Speaker of the House. House Republicans tagged him for the position in November. His election eventually failed with the House splitting the vote 20-20.
Anchorage Democrat Rep. Chris Tuck nominated Rep. Bryce Edgmon. The Dillingham Democrat led the mostly-Democrat House Majority Coalition as Speaker of the House during the previous legislative session. The House never voted on Edgmon, because Tuck eventually rescinded his nomination.
Before the vote, Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, said he is “steadfast” in his resolve for a bipartisan coalition. And with no House organization in order, and discussions ongoing, said he would not vote for either nominee.
“We clearly have no clear decisions,” Knopp said.
“To have these nominations today without a clear organization is a little disingenuous to the people,” he added.
Dalena Johnson, a Republican from Palmer, said it’s important that the House not fall behind during these “trying times.”
“I would just like to see us move forward and time is of the essence. And I’m asking the House of Representatives to work together to move forward to do the people’s business,” Johnson said.
Talerico’s nomination failed with a 20-20 split. Notably, Republican Reps. Louise Stutes of Kodiak, Gabrielle LeDoux of Anchorage, and Knopp cast “nay” votes. Stutes and LeDoux were part of the House Majority Coalition the previous session.
Tuck withdrew his nomination after the Talerico vote, so the House did not vote on Edgmon.
Foster called for a recess until 6:50 p.m. The House will then reconvene for the State of the State Address.
Afterward, Tuck said he withdrew his nomination for Edgmon because he knew it would fail today and he wants to save that debate for the right day.
Tuck said it would be difficult to predict when a majority caucus would be formed.
“One of the nice things about being here in Juneau since the election happened, is people are now being able to get to know one another feeling comfortable with one another,” Tuck said. “And then sharing visions of what they want to see. And then the next step is how do we get there. And what positions do we take to make it happen.”
Tuck said discussions are not focused on positions at this point.
“We’re focusing on who’s in, who’s out, that kind of stuff. We’re focusing on what we can accomplish this session,” Tuck said.
Tuck said the representatives are trying to find common ground.
“A lot of it has to do with Public safety, the budget, and how the earnings reserve and the Permanent Fund Dividend plays a role in all that,” Tuck said, when asked about finding common ground. “That’s the big three things. Once we get that all figured out everything will be easy.”
Contact reporter Kevin Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 523-2258.