The senate vote for new committee appointments on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

The senate vote for new committee appointments on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Conservative senators stripped of committee appointments, claim retaliation for PFD votes

Senators who supported a full PFD say they’re being punished

After a late start on the first day of the legislative session, the Senate majority leadership stripped several members of their committee appointments, leading to accusation of retaliation from those members.

Senators Mike Shower, R-Wasilla; Mia Costello, R-Anchorage; Laura Reinbold, R-Eagle River; and Shelly Hughes, R-Palmer were removed from committees or leadership positions in committees on which they serve following a vote in the Senate on Tuesday evening.

The senators argued they were being stripped of their committee appointments because they had voted for a full statutory Permanent Fund Dividend during last year’s session.

“We started last year, and I was on eight committees,” Shower said during his objection to the motion. This year, “I was given one. I struggle how I can go back to my district and tell them I am representing them when I have been removed from these committees.”

Shower was removed from the Senate Finance, State Affairs, Transportation and Joint Armed Services committees.

Costello was removed from the Committee and Regional Affairs Committee, Hughes was removed as chair of the Judiciary Committee and Reinbold was removed from State Affairs.

In her objection, Reinbold called the decisions an “absolute restructuring of power in the Senate, and a very serious matter for our republic.” She claimed the decision was made by the leadership behind closed doors.

Senate President Cathy Giessel told reporters following the session the decision was made by the leadership and caucus members following a six-hour meeting earlier Tuesday. She said the members who were stripped violated the agreed-upon rules of the caucus.

“When we organized it was very clear. Our very first priority was passing a budget, a funded budget, on time,” Giessel said. “Everyone agreed to the same guideline, the same rule that we would vote for the budget that came out of the Finance Committee.”

She said the senators still had the ability to vote their conscience on matters and could add their input to the various committees. But those votes come with consequences, she said.

“It’s just like sitting in the exit row on a jet. You choose to sit on that exit row. There are rules you have to follow,” Giessel said. “If you say no, that’s fine, you just get a different seat on the plane.”

Hughes said the senators who had been stripped of their appointments were fiscal conservatives whose absence would lead the state toward taxes. The PFD, she said, was meant to be paid out first.

“I think it’s going to end up that in a small PFD for the people, which is not the concept of the framers (of the PFD),” Hughes said. “It was supposed to be paid out first. The people’s PFD was not considered to be a source for state services.”

Giessel said she wasn’t aware of any more shakeups in committee appointments and that this year’s budget discussion would be difficult.

“The most important thing: No one has lost their freedom to vote their will on the floor,” Giessel said.

Both the Senate and the House will meet again on Wednesday.

Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or

Peter Segall | Juneau Empire                                 Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, talk before the first floor session of the year on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Peter Segall | Juneau Empire Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, talk before the first floor session of the year on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

More in News

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson star is Illuminated on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, just east of Anchorage, Alaska, in observation of the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A crew from the base went to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, but found that only half of the star’s 350 or so lights were working, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, but they plan to work through the week, if necessary, base spokesperson Erin Eaton said. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Avalanche delays holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city

ANCHORAGE — A holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city for more than… Continue reading

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read