Reps talking, but House still unsettled

Republicans give update on talks in the house

Rep. Dave Talerico did not get to break the news he had hoped to share during a press conference Tuesday in the Alaska State Capitol. The Healy Republican had no update on House leadership and organization. He said members of the House are “still talking quite a bit,” though.

“The most important thing is we’re still communicating,” Talerico said.

Tuesday marked the 15th day of the 31st Legislative Session, and the House remains unorganized, which is a week shy of the record of 22 days without House leadership, set back in 1981. The House cannot conduct business without House leadership in place.

There are 23 Republicans in the House, but only 20 are caucusing with their party; it takes at least 21 representatives to form a majority caucus in the House, which has 40 members. A permanent House speaker cannot be elected without a majority either.

[Opinion: Split Democrats, Republicans equally in Alaska House]

Republican Reps. Gabrielle LeDoux, of Anchorage, and Louise Stutes, of Kodiak caucused with the House Majority Coalition during the last legislative session. Former Alaska GOP chairman Tuckerman Babcock, who is now Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s chief of staff, targeted LeDoux and Stutes in the election, but these two managed to win their elections. They are not caucusing with Republicans now.

Talerico was asked during the press conference when he would hit the panic button. He said he hit it in December. That’s when Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, left the Republican caucus. He would have been the 21st member of that caucus to tip the scale of power in favor of Republicans. When he left, he told KTOO Public Media he wanted to join a bipartisan coalition that could act as a counterbalance to the Dunleavy administration.

Even if Knopp were to join the House Coalition caucus at this point, there could be a 20-20 split between the caucuses and no majority.

Mike Mason, a press secretary for the House Coalition, was present at Talerico’s press conference, but shook his head “no” when asked if there was an update from his camp.

As for the representatives who caught flights home during the past two weekends, Talerico stressed that the lines of communication remain open between representatives, and they are still working during the weekend.

• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.