(3-minute read) EMERGING PLAN WOULD MEAN CO-SPEAKERS, CO-CHAIRS
It’s been three weeks since the Legislature gaveled in, but still there’s no leadership established in the House.
Now, it appears that a small group of appointed legislators have over the past week crafted a 50-50 power-sharing plan between Democrats and Republicans. Today could be the day.
It’s a plan the Democrats may like very much, since they only have 17 elected members (including Daniel Ortiz of Ketchikan, who identifies as a nonpartisan), and the Republicans have 23.
That split exists in Alaska’s House because three Republicans — Louise Stutes, Gabrielle LeDoux, and Gary Knopp — won’t caucus with their fellow Republicans.
The fragile Republican majority fell apart in December, when Knopp decided to walk out on Republicans. He wants a 50-50 power-sharing split.
Knopp of Kenai has been working for weeks to get Democrat Bryce Edgmon back as Speaker.
Now, Knopp appears to be shifting again as he walks back and forth between ends of the hallways, serving as the power broker. Dave Talerico is once again emerging as a possible co-speaker, if he accepts the role.
A group of eight legislators will today present the 50-50 power-sharing agreement to their respective sides for a vote.
Four of the eight are rookies, never having served in the Legislature before.
The group is composed of Reps. Lance Pruitt, George Rauscher, Josh Revak, and Bart LeBon on the Republican side, and Jonathan Kreiss Tompkins, Daniel Ortiz, Andi Story, and Grier Hopkins for the Democrats.
They’re calling it the Montana Plan, based on what the Big Sky State and others have done at times, when they had a 50-50 split.
What is being talked about would involve co-Speakers, co-chairs for committees, and 50-50 splits on committee memberships, which give Democrats an advantage they were not able to achieve at the ballot box last fall.
The group has even talked about how there may need to be decisions made by a coin toss.
It’s a plan that will likely disenfranchise the more conservative members of the House, which represent the growing Mat-Su Valley, in favor of the Democrat strongholds of Anchorage and Juneau.
The group hopes to have its model firmed up before Gov. Michael Dunleavy releases his budget amendments on Feb. 13.
For Knopp, that appears to be a priority. His overarching goals are to block Gov. Michael Dunleavy’s legislation and to shut out the Mat-Su Valley delegates. He has already said on the record he is afraid of some of Dunleavy’s platform, and he refuses to join a Republican caucus that includes Valley member David Eastman.
What is George Rauscher, a conservative legislator in his second term, who hails from the state’s most conservative district, doing in that group? He’s an unlikely fit.
Rauscher was recruited as a substitute member when last weekend there were not enough Rs in Juneau to participate. Rauscher appears to be a “no” vote on this power-sharing plan, however. He said he’s keeping an eye on things but has been leery of the current direction.