Today, the first day of the 32nd Alaska Legislature, Senate Republicans were finally able to organize a majority in the State Senate. Since the November 3 election, the 13 Senate Republicans have been unable to organize a majority due to disagreements on the Permanent Fund Dividend and the binding caucus rule.
Senator Peter Micciche (R – Soldotna) was elected Senate President. After, they announced the following leadership positions:
• Senate Majority Leader Shelley Hughes
• Senate Majority Whip Mia Costello
• Senate Rules chairman Gary Stevens
• Senate Finance co-chairs Bert Stedman and Click Bishop
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In their press release they stated, “Additional members may be joining the organization.” Left out of the new majority is Senator Lyman Hoffman (D – Bethel). Hoffman was the Majority Leader for the prior Republican majority and is a force in the State Senate. He has served in the legislature since 1987. Senator Natasha von Imhof (R – Anchorage), who served as Co-Chair of the Finance Committee in the prior majority, has been replaced by Senator Click Bishop (R – Fairbanks). Senator Mike Shower (R – Wasilla), who had been angling for a leadership position for the last few months, has been left out of leadership.
Their press release also stated, “The caucus is based upon a “Caucus of Equals” philosophy, recognizing the diverse nature of the group and the districts throughout the state represented by the members.” Senator Bert Stedman (R – Sitka) has been adamant about a binding caucus on the final budget vote. Senator Shower and Senator Shelley Hughes (R – Palmer) have been opposed to a binding caucus. It appears they got a concession on that.
While they have 13 members, they will need 11 to agree to pass a budget and other controversial legislation. They released this statement in their press release:
As Alaskans are aware, there are differences in this group. Yet all members have agreed to a transparent and respectful organization that will work through this session’s tough decisions toward solutions best for all Alaskans.
It’s going to get very interesting in the Senate. Senate Democrats announced they formed a Senate Minority. Senator Tom Begich (D – Anchorage) has been re-elected as Senate Minority Leader. When I asked their press secretary if Senator Hoffman was a member of the Democrat Minority I was told, “Right now I don’t have an answer to that. I will get back to you when I know.” With all the leadership positions taken, it’s not clear what Hoffman plans to do. He might just watch from the sidelines to see if the Republicans can function as a majority.