The Alaska State Capitol, seen here on Nov. 4, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The Alaska State Capitol, seen here on Nov. 4, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Local reps. await House organization

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, is the only rep. to have prefiled legislation

The Alaska House of Representatives has not formally organized nearly three weeks into the session, meaning bills cannot be introduced and representatives cannot receive committee assignments. The 32nd Legislature’s first regular session runs from Jan. 19 to May 19, meaning roughly 25% of the session will have been inactive for the House if the stalemate continues through the end of the week.

Some progress was made last week, when the House unanimously picked Rep. Josiah Patkotak, I-Utqiagvik, to be the House’s temporary speaker. As speaker pro tempore, Patkotak will oversee the nomination and voting process for the selection of a permanent House speaker.

As of Monday, Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, was the only peninsula-area representative to pre-file legislation this session. Her bill, H.B. 52, is specific to the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery in Kachemak Bay. Neither Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, nor Rep. Ron Gillham, R-Kenai, had pre-filed any bills as of Monday.

Carpenter said in a statement to the Clarion on Monday that both House caucuses continue to negotiate on an agreement that will allow for the selection of a permanent presiding officer.

“The House membership is equally divided between two caucuses,” Carpenter wrote. “The House Republican Caucus agreed to nominate a member of the other caucus for Speaker Pro Tempore in order to alleviate the Lt. Governor from his temporary responsibility as presiding officer and to move the discussion forward about finding a permanent presiding officer.”

Both peninsula senators have already sponsored bills and have received committee assignments.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, has sponsored two bills and co-sponsored another. S.B. 9 has to do with alcohol regulations and S.B. 29 would reintroduce his Cook Inlet fishing permit buyback program, which he also introduced last year. Micciche is also a co-sponsor of S.B. 25, which would create a website that provides information on state government financial transactions.

Micciche, in addition to being named president of the Senate, serves as the chair of the Senate Committee on Committees, vice chair of the Senate Resources Committee, vice chair of the Senate Rules Committee and as a member of nine other committees.

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, has sponsored 10 bills, one committee resolution and one joint resolution. Most of Stevens’ bills concern education, such as S.B. 19, which extends the Special Education Service Agency and S.B. 32, which establishes an Alaska middle college program for public school students.

Stevens also currently serves as the chair of the Senate Rules Committee, the chair of the Senate Special Committee on World Trade, the vice chair of the Senate Education Committee and as a member of eight other senate committees.

Alaska House Republicans Communications Director Ben Dietderich said Monday that House Republicans are “ready to get to work.”

“The Alaska House Republicans have already begun working on solutions for the pressing issues facing our state and we hope all representatives will join us in getting to work for the Alaskan people,” Dietderich said. “Right now, Alaska faces significant challenges. The livelihoods of Alaskans across the Kenai and the state are being threatened by outside forces. The Canadian government’s prohibition of cruise vessels through February 2022 will devastate our economy if action is not immediately taken.”

Throughout the legislative session, people can track legislation, watch hearings and learn more about the legislature on akleg.gov.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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