For the second time since the Alaska State House of Representatives convened on Jan. 19, Republicans nominated Rep. Bart LeBon (R-Fairbanks) for Speaker Pro Tem, in an effort to organize the House and start conducting business. And for the second time, the Democrats voted no.
The nomination failed on a 20-20 vote along caucus lines. Republican Louise Stutes of Kodiak sided with the Democrats. all of whom voted against the nomination. Democrats did not put forward a nomination of their own.
Two years ago, when the House faced a similar impasse, House Republicans joined with their colleagues to elect Rep. Neal Foster, a Nome Democrat, as Speaker Pro Tem so that business could be conducted.
“We must take the first step to get government moving,” said Rep. Steve Thompson (R-Fairbanks). “This is about the people of Alaska. Playing games over a Speaker Pro Tem, who would simply conduct a limited floor session, shows little regard for the people’s business and good government.”
Rep. Cathy Tilton (R-Chugiak/MatSu) said, “It is disappointing that our colleagues remain unwilling to take the most basic step to move forward in order to allow the House to start working on the critical business Alaskans sent us here to do.”
“Since the election ended in November, the House has been steadily working towards organizing and addressing the challenges Alaska faces” LeBon said. “Our side has demonstrated that we are actively trying to offer solutions by putting up a name for Speaker Pro Tempore, while the other side continues to stall and delay. Alaskans deserve better.”
All 40 members were present on Thursday, unlike when the House met on Wednesday and only the Republicans showed up for the meeting.
The Thursday meeting was unusual in that it was the day after a regularly scheduled House meeting, but since Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer was leaving Juneau, the House needed to meet on Thursday to be in alignment with the “three day rule.” Lt. Gov. Meyer has been serving as the Speaker Pro Tem in the absence of an elected representative in that role.
Last time the House organized, in 2019, Le Bon was one of the seven Republicans who went over to the Democrats’ side and organized with them, winning a seat on House Finance as a freshman legislator. This year, they won’t accept him as a Speaker Pro Tem.