Republican lawmaker signals House majority could be formed this week
With just a little over two weeks from the start of the 31st Legislature's first legislative session, the Alaska House still has no clear majority, but one Republican lawmaker is signalling that could change as soon as this weekend.
The current makeup of the Alaska House is 19 Republicans, 19 members of a Democrat-led coalition, and Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, who said he would not join either caucus with such a thin majority.
On Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court is set to decide on the election result of House District 1 which the Republicans believe will go to them. If the GOP wins, the caucus would only have 20 seats — not enough to form a clear majority.
“I personally am very encouraged that later this week, maybe this weekend, we could get that done,” said Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, on ongoing negotiations to form a majority organization. “People are talking, people who see eye-to-eye, not on everything, but they have the good of the state in mind.”
Kopp declined to comment on which party would lead the majority or whether he himself would be a member. He would also not confirm or deny whether different parties would chair different committees.
Meanwhile, Knopp confirmed in an email that he had not changed his mind and joined his Republican colleagues to form a majority, writing in an email, "a simple majority on either side has a very slim probability of success. There is no good reason not to work today as a unified house to get our work done."
Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, the current House Speaker, said there is a dialogue going on between the two parties but he wasn't aware of a majority being formed by the weekend.
“I think there is a commitment on both sides to have these constructive conversations,” Edgmon said, adding that both parties are working “to sort through the different scenarios and ultimately come up with a majority organization that can best serve the people of Alaska."
Following more decisive elections, majorities are typically formed quickly, allowing for chairs of committees to be decided and for legislative staffers to find roles.
Edgmon said that as House Speaker, he had organized for some staff positions to begin before the legislative session started, with each lawmaker treated equally. Typically, majority legislators get more staff.
Kopp said there were around 60-70 staffers on standby waiting for a majority to organize before the legislative session begins Jan. 15.