With 65% of first-choice votes cast by Alaskans for Alaska senate races in the general election going to Republicans, negotiations are under way to organize the Senate not as a Republican majority. Instead, elected Republicans are putting together a bipartisan majority, with Sen. Gary Stevens as the apparent Senate president, with Sen. Lyman Hoffman and Sen. Bert Stedman as Finance co-chairs.
The current idea of this planned bipartisan majority has Democrats in key positions, such as the chair of the powerful Rules Committee, which means a Democrat could stop any legislation from going to the floor.
But the current Majority Leader, Sen. Shelley Hughes of Palmer, says there is a better way and is urging her fellow Republicans to put together a Republican-led majority, presuming the final vote tally sends 11 Republican senators to Juneau.
“When 65 percent of voters cast their first-place vote for a Republican for state senate and a majority of Republicans are elected to the Senate,” Hughes said, “that is a clear signal Alaskans believe a right-of-center Senate Majority is best for our state. High inflation, gas, and energy prices; President Biden’s anti-resource development policies; and concerning social policies prompted voters to select right-leaning candidates to serve in our state Senate. Alaskans voted the way they did to help strengthen our economy, our communities, and our families.
“It is incumbent upon Republicans elected to the Senate to respect the will of the voters and join together in a Majority for the betterment of Alaska,” Hughes added. “We all understand that who the voters choose to serve greatly impacts our state, but we need to realize, too, how those who serve choose to form a Majority also greatly impacts our state.”
Due to the close 11-9 make-up of the Senate, several Democrats would be invited to join the proposed Senate Majority, as has been done numerous times in the past.
After discussions over months with colleagues about potential policy priorities around which members could coalesce, and more recent conversations about how the proposed majority could ensure passage of a reasonable budget, Hughes, along with some of her colleagues, offered a proposal for returning Republican and incoming Republican senators-elect to review and consider.
“The assumption that a group of some of the Republicans joining with all of the Democrats is the only option for a functional Majority is false. There is another reasonable and viable pathway forward that better reflects the will of Alaskans and would result in more positive outcomes for our state. As we approach the upcoming session, we hope to join together with all our Republican colleagues in the Senate Majority in acknowledgment of and respect for the voters,” she said.
Must Read Alaska acquired the plan that Hughes has offered to fellow Republicans to keep the majority in the Senate led by Republicans, which included putting a cap on the budget and separating out a vote on the Permanent Fund dividend appropriation, which is always a sticking point with lawmakers ever since former Gov. Bill Walker blew up the traditional formula in 2016. The plan obtained by MRAK follows:
It’s unclear that the current group crafting the majority will include the conservative members — Sen. Hughes, Sen. Mike Shower, and Sen. Rob Myers. Instead, it appears that the work underway with Sen. Stevens at the helm would give Sen. Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat, a powerful position in leadership, along with at least one other Democrat, such as Sen. Lyman Hoffman, who almost always joins with the majority caucus.