The House of Representatives is not fully organized just yet, but several key leadership positions have been filled.
It took the House a record 31 days to elect a speaker in Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, on Thursday. He recently changed his party affiliation from Democrat to undeclared. Edgmon who chairs the Committee on Committees said he hopes to have leadership and committee assignments completed Monday.
A couple assignments have been made. All of these members belong to the bipartisan House Majority Coalition: Republican Rep. Steve Thompson will be House Majority Leader. Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage will be House Rules Committee chair. Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, and Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, will be Finance Committee co-chairs.
Once the committees are set, the House can start tackling legislation. For example, the House Finance Committee could start working on the budget.
Kopp had been tagged as majority leader, but he switched positions with Thompson Friday morning. He called it a “mutual decision.”
“I think it was a matter of preference, skill set for each position,” Kopp said. Kopp said he had more experience in dealing with “process intensive” side of things including Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, the book of procedural rules the Alaska Legislature uses to conduct its meetings.
“We decided it would be an ideal position for each one of us,” Kopp added.
Thompson was unavailable for comment to comment Friday afternoon on his new role.
House Majority Coalition
The bipartisan House Majority Coalition consisted of 25 members as of Friday. Rep. Bart LeBon was the 25th member to join the majority.
LeBon, a freshman Republican from Fairbanks, was the 25th member to join the Majority Coalition.
“The appointment of Representatives Wilson and Thompson to key leadership positions gave me justification for joining the majority caucus,” LeBon said. Wilson and Thompson are veteran Republicans from the Interior. “Hopefully I’ll be sitting on the Finance Committee with Representative Wilson.”
LeBon, a retired banker, believes his experience would serve well on that committee.
He also spoke about why he joined the other five Interior delegates in the majority caucus.
“We gave it the all-American try, both sides of the aisle did,” LeBon said. “It became clear to me there was no settlement date in sight without some kind of bold action from one caucus or the other to bridge the divide.”
“It became apparent that we needed to find some common ground the (Interior delagates) feel that we have found that common ground,” LeBon said.
The party breakdown of the House Majority Coalition is: 16 Democrats in Reps. Neal Foster, Nome; Matt Claman, Anchorage; Harriet Drummond, Anchorage; Zack Fields, Anchorage; Sara Hannan, Juneau; Grier Hopkins, Fairbanks; Andy Josephson, Anchorage; Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Sitka; John Lincoln, Kotzebue; Ivy Sponholz, Anchorage; Andi Story, Juneau; Geran Tarr, Anchorage; Chris Tuck, Anchorage; Adam Wool, Fairbanks and Tiffany Zulkosky of Bethel. Eight Republicans in Reps. Tammie Wilson, North Pole; Gary Knopp, Kenai; Steve Thompson, Fairbanks; Louise Stutes, Kodiak; Gabrielle LeDoux, Anchorage; Bart LeBon, Fairbanks, Jennifer Johnston; Anchorage and Chuck Kopp of Anchorage. Two non-affiliated members in Reps. Dan Ortiz, Ketchikan and Bryce Edgmon Dillingham.
The Republican Minority will be led by Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage.
“As much as it’s been kind of frustrating over the last month, we look forward to getting to work,” Pruitt said, during a Friday morning press conference.
Pruitt said Republicans who joined the majority may see things differently that does not mean they “won’t beable to work for what’s right for Alaska.”
“The point is we can still work together,” Pruitt added.
Pruitt was also asked why he did not join the House majority.
“One of the conerns that I had,” Pruitt said, “is I’m very concerned about being a part of caucus with people who that have very different ideas on the future of Alaska, and yet having to be a part of a binding caucus that demanded that I agree to the issues that are on the opposite side of where I find myself.”
Rep. DeLena Johnson of Palmer will be the minority whip.
Rep. Cathy Tilton of Wasilla will be the Republican finance leader. This is a position within the House minority, not the House Finance Committee.
The other 12 members of the Republican House Minority consists of Reps. Ben Carpenter, Nikiski; David Eastman, Wasilla; Sharon Jackson, Eagle River; Kelly Merrick, Eagle River; Mark Neuman, Big Lake; Sara Rasmussen, Anchorage; George Rauscher, Sutton; Josh Revak, Anchorage; Laddie Shaw, Anchorage; Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, Wasilla; Dave Talerico, Healy; and Sara Vance of Homer.
• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258. Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.