Bipartisan Alaska House coalition may have a one-seat majority

Key committee assignments have not been named almost a month into session
Alaska Capitol
Alaska Capitol(KTUU)
Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 8:04 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - After almost a month of deadlock, the bipartisan House coalition may narrowly have enough members to form a majority caucus, but that hasn’t been confirmed on the House floor and key committee assignments have still not been named.

On Thursday, Rep. Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River, was the decisive vote in choosing Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, to be the speaker. Merrick released a statement a short while later, saying that she had not joined the House coalition.

On Monday, Merrick became the 21st member of the bipartisan House coalition, according to Stutes. That would give the bipartisan coalition a one-seat majority in the 40-member House.

Merrick said by text that she is working closely with Stutes to “put together a diverse, functional organization that includes Republicans in key positions.”

Merrick did not answer whether she has joined the House coalition.

“I look forward to working with all my legislative colleagues to get Alaska’s economy moving again,” Merrick added by text. “When we work together, great things can happen.”

Stutes said she hoped that the majority caucus would continue to grow with more Republicans joining the caucus. “The intent is to have a bipartisan coalition where everybody has an opportunity to participate, it’s open to members from both sides, and I’m happy about that,” she added.

Stutes announced membership of the Committee on Committees during Monday’s House floor session. That committee, which usually meets for one, routine hearing on the first day of the legislative session, announces which legislators chair powerful committees after horsetrading goes on behind closed doors.

Not all committee positions have been determined and “right now, everything is pliable,” but some key assignments have been chosen, Stutes said.

Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, has been earmarked as majority leader, Stutes added. But that could change.

Tuck said on Monday that he could relinquish that position to get more Republicans to join the House coalition. He also said that Merrick has not attended any House coalition caucus meetings.

Stutes said that Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Merrick have been chosen to be co-chairs of the House Finance Committee, a powerful legislative committee that plays a key role in writing Alaska’s budget.

Stutes did not know when the rest of the House committee assignments would be announced or when the formal Committee on Committees would meet and when its report would be adopted by the House.

The House adjourned until Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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