As the members of the House of Representatives took the floor Tuesday morning, there was a buzz in the room. Many thought the representatives would finally elect a Speaker of the House after nearly a month of session.
With no House organization, new Juneau Reps. Sara Hannan and Andi Story are still without a chance to join committees or introduce legislation. In an interview shortly after Tuesday’s session, Story said she was optimistic the House would find a way to organize soon.
“I think there was some anticipation in a lot of the room to see what was going to happen,” Story said, “and then the result, ‘Well, this wasn’t it, so let’s keep on talking.’ We know it’s important, so I hope it’s coming soon.”
There were two votes on the floor Tuesday for a Speaker — one for Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, and one for Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai — and both votes were locked at 20-20. Hannan and Story, both Democrats, voted against Talerico and for Knopp.
Story said Tuesday that she hopes the majority that forms ends up being a bipartisan one. Hannan was in meetings all day Tuesday after the floor session and wasn’t free for an interview, but wrote in a recent editorial that appeared in the Empire that she’d like to see a majority that’s more than just 21 members.
“The people’s business is not served by a weak majority that must bend to the will of a single member,” Hannan wrote. “We need a majority that will last.”
Part of the reason for the lack of organization is that it’s taken nearly a month of session for lawmakers to get a look at Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget, Story said. The budget proposal, which is expected to include major cuts in state spending, is being released Wednesday.
“This has been a highly unusual session, everyone tells me,” Story said. “They say … since the governor’s budget doesn’t come out until February, I don’t think that’s helped spur us on to be organizing in a way, because we know that this is coming.”
This standstill is not all bad, Story said. This time has given the representatives a chance to get to know each other, and has helped the new members of the House have time to get their feet wet.
“There’s really a good feeling inside the House,” Story said. “A lot of the freshmen, we’ve spent a lot of time together, so that’s going to help on issues. We’ve had time to visit more than, say, if we were all on committees.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.