Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, receives a kiss from his daughter, Adara, before Kiehl is sworn in on the first day of the 31st Session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, receives a kiss from his daughter, Adara, before Kiehl is sworn in on the first day of the 31st Session of the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s new state senator gets committee assignments, including ‘colossal’ task

Jesse Kiehl assigned to three committees as Legislative session begins

Juneau’s new state senator got his committee assignments Tuesday, just after being sworn in.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, will sit on the Senate Judiciary, Senate Resources and Senate Transportation standing committees, according to the Senate Committee on Committees report Tuesday. With the House still at a standstill without a majority in place, Juneau’s newly elected members of the House — Democrats Sara Hannan and Andi Story — do not yet have their assignments.

The Senate Judiciary Committee in particular will be high profile this session. Speaking to the Empire after the Senate adjourned for the day Tuesday, Kiehl said all eyes are on the Legislature’s ability to address public safety concerns throughout the state.

“Frankly, it’s a colossal workload this year,” Kiehl said.

[‘Like the first day of school’: Juneau’s freshmen lawmakers gear up for session]

Kiehl said the committee assignments should suit him well and all of them address Southeast issues. The Resources Committee tackles some of the state’s most pressing issues from fishing to mining to timber to oil. Kiehl said he expects fishing issues, the state’s response to climate change and the potential of a gasline in the future tend to be major focuses on the committee.

The Transportation Committee handles issues from railroads to safe routes to school. It also might end up addressing an issue that’s vital to Southeast — the ferry system.

“As far as lawmaking goes in Transportation, any work on the Alaska Marine Highway Management Reform Project will go through there,” Kiehl said. “That’s of interest to Southeast.”

The AMHS (Alaska Marine Highway System) Reform Project is an initiative through Southeast Conference that aims to find a way to make the ferry system more viable long-term. Proponents of the reform project sought to work with the Legislature last session.

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, is the chair of both the Judiciary and Transportation committees. Kiehl said he gets along with her well.

Kiehl will also appear on budget subcommittees, but those have yet to be assigned. Kiehl is on the same number of standing committees (three) as his predecessor, Sen. Dennis Egan, was during last year’s session.

Egan, also a Democrat, was a member of a total of seven senate committees and subcommittees: State Affairs; Transportation; Fish and Game Finance Subcommittee; Select Committee on Legislative Ethics; Administration Finance Subcommittee; Transportation and Public Facilities Finance Subcommittee; and the Senate Conference Committee on Senate Bill 26. SB 26 was a bill to draw from the Permanent Fund to help balance the state’s budget, and it was passed in May 2018.

[New Alaska ferries need $30M in work before entering service]

Kiehl was a staffer for Egan as well as a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member, and said he feels experienced in the issues both statewide and locally.

“Over the years, (I’ve) worked on all of these issues in some way or other,” Kiehl said. “With new members, there’s always a new take, there’s always a new proposal, so you work on the issues fresh.”

To start the day, Kiehl and the other incoming senators were sworn in on the Senate floor. Kiehl’s parents, wife and one of his two daughters were in attendance to see him take his oath.

“The ceremony the first day is important,” Kiehl said. “It really is. It drives home that we now hold a constitutional office. We were always going to take it seriously, but this is a part of that process. So now I’m back to work.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Feb. 5

Folks at the Alaska State Capitol openly admit to plenty of fish tales, but to a large degree in ways intended to benefit residents and sometimes even the fish. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

This photo shows snow-covered hills in the Porcupine River Tundra in the Yukon Territories, Canada. In July 1997, a hunter contacted troopers in Fairbanks, Alaska, and reported finding a human skull along the Porcupine River, around 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Canadian border. Investigators used genetic genealogy to help identify the remains as those of Gary Frank Sotherden, according to a statement Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, from Alaska State Troopers. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)
Skull found in ‘97 in Interior belongs to New York man

A skull found in a remote part of Alaska’s Interior in 1997… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Officer William Hicks stands with JPD Chief Ed Mercer and Deputy Chief David Campbell during a swearing in ceremony for Hicks on Thursday at the JPD station in Lemon Creek. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
New officer joins JPD’s ranks

The Juneau Police Department welcomed a new officer to its ranks Thursday… Continue reading

These photos show Nova, a 3-year-old golden retriever, and the illegally placed body hold trap, commonly referred to as a Conibear trap, that caught her while walking near Outer Point Trail last week. (Courtesy / Jessica Davis)
Dog narrowly survives rare illegally placed trap in Juneau

State wildlife officials outlined what to do if found in similar situation

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Public defender agency to refuse some cases, citing staffing

ANCHORAGE — A state agency that represents Alaskans who cannot afford their… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police: Gift card scam connected to hoax Fred Meyer threats

This article has been moved in front of the Empire’s paywall. A… Continue reading

This is a concept design drawing that was included in the request for proposal sent out by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities seeking outside engineering and design services to determine whether it’s feasible to build a new ferry terminal facility in Juneau at Cascade Point. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)
DOT takes steps toward potential Cascade Point ferry terminal facility

It would accommodate the Tazlina and or Hubbard, shorten trips to Haines and Skagway

Most Read