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Alaska Senate Republicans form majority caucus as the Legislature convenes

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, was chosen to be Senate president.
Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, was chosen to be Senate president.(Becky Bohrer via AP, Pool)
Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 10:20 AM AKST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 10:29 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Senate Republicans formed a majority caucus on the same day that the 32nd Alaska Legislature convened for the start of its regular session. The Alaska House of Representatives remains unorganized.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, was elected as Senate president on Tuesday.

Micciche said it would be a caucus of equals with everyone being heard. It would be up to him to get everyone on the same page and to keep them there. “No one is going to be marginalized as we’ve seen in the past,” Micciche said.

The Senate majority will not be a “binding” caucus. That kind of caucus typically requires legislators to pledge to vote together on some key bills, including the budget. If a lawmaker votes against caucus lines on those bills, they risk losing committee assignments and staff members.

“We have agreed that a vote on the budget is expected, but not required,” Micciche said.

Palmer Republican Sen. Shelley Hughes will be the Senate majority leader. Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens will be the chair of the Senate Rules Committee. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, will be co-chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop will be the other co-chair of that committee.

Other Senate committee assignments will be announced later.

There are 13 Republicans and seven Democrats in the Senate. At least 11 senators are needed to form a majority caucus. A majority caucus is able to issue committee assignments and plays a central role in which bills pass into law.

Despite the clear majority of GOP senators, there have been sharp divisions among Republican on how to tackle the Permanent Fund dividend and the budget.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, had been advocating for a bipartisan coalition in the Senate. He was re-elected on Tuesday as the Senate minority leader.

“We know how to legislate, we know how to do the job, the question is: will the new majority work as well with the minority as the past Senate president? I’m confident we’re starting off on the right foot, so let’s make it happen,” Begich said.

The House remains unorganized. At least 21 legislators are needed in the House to form a majority.

It began its session with Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer swearing legislators into office while they stood at a safe distance from each other.

Without an organization, the House was unable to elect a House speaker. It was also unable to choose a temporary House speaker, a largely ceremonial position.

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