Alaska House on the verge of organizing

Some leadership has been named

The Alaska House of Representatives inched closer to organization Monday after lawmakers approved the makeup of a group tasked with giving out committee assignments.

House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, and Reps. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham; Neal Foster, D-Nome; Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage; Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River; Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage and Mike Cronk, R-Tok/Northway were approved as members of the Committee on Committees.

Tuck will also serve as Majority Leader, according to Austin Baird, spokesperson for the House Coalition. Edgmon and Merrick will serve as co-chairs on the House Finance Committe, he said.

The Committee on Committee report is typically issued within 24 hours of a Speaker being elected, but only 19 lawmakers, which is not enough for a quorum to do business, were present for Friday’s floor session.

Republican lawmakers in the House tried to object to the committee list, but three of their members, Reps. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage; Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks; and Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks, were absent. Members adjourned until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Stutes was elected speaker by a narrow majority, but an organized caucus has not yet been formed. Shortly after voting for Stutes, Rep. Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River, released a statement saying she had not joined the “House Coalition” that consists of mostly Democrats, three independents and Stutes as the lone Republican.

A simple majority vote is needed to pass a proposal for the make-up of the Committee on Committees, which has the power to assign committee chairmanships. Chairmanships allow lawmakers control over what bills are heard and thus make it to the floor for a vote. Until committee assignments are given, legislative work in the House can’t fully begin. The full report is expected soon, according to Baird.

Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.