It did not take long for the discombobulated Alaska House to get derailed with a disagreement on procedure.
Shortly after new Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer swore in 39 members of the House Tuesday afternoon, he and Democratic lawmakers were arguing over whether Healy Republican Rep. Dave Talerico was allowed to read a message on behalf of Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Talerico had been trying to relay a message to the House from Dunleavy about Dunleavy’s desire to appoint Sharon Jackson to House District 13 in Chugiak. That position was left vacant in December after Dunleavy appointed Nancy Dahlstrom to be Department of Corrections commissioner.
Tensions rising, a back and forth between Meyer and Tuck led Tuck to remind Meyer that the rules would not allow for the House to receive communications from the governor until the House was organized. Right now, there is no clear House majority caucus, which means there is no House leadership to conduct business.
Meyer called for a break that lasted about 20 minutes.
When Meyer called the session back to order, he said the governor’s communication would not be read. Meyer then congratulated the representatives.
“I have worked with many of you, and know most of you, you’re going to do a great job.” Meyer said. “I believe we are in good hands.”
The argument underscored the looming issue at hand: Until a majority is formed, the House will be at a standstill. A House Majority Coalition comprised of mostly Democrats has been in power the last two years. A Republican and independent who had caucused with the House Majority Coalition lost re-election bids in November. Republicans who caucused with the coalition were targeted by Alaska Republicans for their defection.
Even if Sharon Jackson’s appointment is finalized as expected, House Republicans would only have 20 members, which is not enough for a majority.
The House briefly reconvened at 5 p.m. Tuesday, but gaveled out without further action.
Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258.