Alaska House elects temporary speaker, swears in new member

Alaska House elects temporary speaker, swears in new member

  • By BECKY BOHRER Associated Press
  • Friday, January 18, 2019 12:23am
  • News

JUNEAU — The Alaska House elected a temporary speaker and swore in its newest member Thursday, steps legislative leaders saw as significant amid ongoing efforts to organize a majority.

It was not clear how close the sides were to organizing and electing a permanent speaker, though lawmakers said efforts would continue.

Democratic Rep. Neal Foster of Nome was elected temporary speaker, 35-4, after the nomination of Big Lake Republican Rep. Mark Neuman failed.

Both Foster and Rep. Dave Talerico, a Republican leader from Healy, chalked up Foster’s win to lawmakers wanting to avoid a drawn-out fight for the spot and to get Republican Sharon Jackson sworn in.

Foster swore in Jackson to the Eagle River-area seat vacated by Republican Nancy Dahlstrom, who was elected in November but became Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s corrections commissioner before the legislative session began.

Foster and other lawmakers said his powers beyond that as temporary speaker are extremely limited. With no committees in place, bills can’t be introduced.

There was some question, too, about whether the House could accept Dunleavy’s request for a joint session to deliver his State of the State speech Tuesday. Foster said it would be nice if his powers could allow for that but said the parties would have to agree.

Republicans hold 23 seats, which would be enough for a small majority in the 40-member House. But party doesn’t always dictate how lawmakers organize. Two Republicans have indicated a desire to be part of a coalition. A third wants the parties to work together.

A disagreement over procedure Tuesday, the first day of session, delayed Jackson’s swearing in. Jackson participated Wednesday in a purported swearing-in ceremony conducted by a deputy clerk at a courthouse across from the Capitol. But the Department of Law told Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer’s office it did not constitute an official oath of office. Meyer presided over the House until the temporary speaker was elected.

In explaining the courthouse event, Jackson indicated she had been eager to get to work for her constituents.

Meanwhile, Jessica Geary, executive director of the Legislature Affairs Agency, said a letter signed by House members ensures that staff can remain on the payroll until the House is organized to do business.

The Legislature’s human resources manager had warned last week that a temporary staffing authorization would expire the first day of session.

Thirty-nine members signed the letter dated Wednesday; Jackson had not taken office yet.


• By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press


Alaska House elects temporary speaker, swears in new member
Alaska House elects temporary speaker, swears in new member

More in News

Hundreds gather for the first week of the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna music series kicks off with crowds, colors and sunshine

A color run took off ahead of performances by Blackwater Railroad Company and BenJammin The Jammin Band

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Finance Director Liz Hayes, left, testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly during a budget work session on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly passes borough budget

The document fully funds borough schools and includes a decrease in property taxes

The George A. Navarre Kenai Peninsula Borough building. (Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Assembly shrinks borough planning commission

The planning commission is responsible for planning the “systemic development and betterment” of the borough

The Sterling Highway crosses the Kenai River near the Russian River Campground on March 15, 2020, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Russian River Campground reopens for 2 summer months

Reservations for campsites can be made online

Kristin Lambert testifies in support of funding for the Soldotna Senior Center during an assembly meeting on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
After leadership change, borough funds Soldotna senior center

The Soldotna City Council in May voted to defund the center for the upcoming fiscal year

Signs direct visitors at Seward City Hall on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
5 vying for Seward city manager gig

The Seward City Council will convene for a special city council meeting on June 12 to review candidates’ applications

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna resident found dead in home

He was found Monday morning

Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney speaks during the 100% Alaska Community Town Hall on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
100% Alaska survey results, state of services discussed at town hall

Change 4 the Kenai leads conversation about access to mental health, housing, transportation

Soldotna High School senior Josiah Burton testifies in opposition to a proposed cut of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District theater technicians while audience members look on during a board of education meeting on Monday, March 6, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Awaiting state funding, board of ed works to bring back staff positions

Alaska lawmakers this session passed a budget bill that includes $175 million in one-time funding for Alaska’s K-12 schools

Most Read