Southeast Alaska’s representatives in the state house know their committee assignments following the resolution of several close legislative races in the state’s general election. A newcomer and independent from Ketchikan has decided to caucus with the house minority.
Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan won a close race as an independent to represent his hometown along with Wrangell and other towns in the southern Panhandle. Ortiz has decided to caucus with the minority.
“No matter which caucus I would be a part of, it’s going to be a difficult session with revenue being down, oil prices being down. It’s going to be difficult, first of all, to come up with a balanced budget that meets the needs of the state and I think that’s the biggest challenge for a person of either caucus,” he told KFSK Radio.
With Ortiz, the minority caucus in the house now numbers 13 of the 40 house seats. He says he’s looking forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and is encouraged by the election of Bill Walker as governor.
Ortiz will serve on the House fisheries committee, along with committees on community and regional affairs, transportation and economic development, trade and tourism.
“I think transportation is an important committee to have input in,” he said. “It’s certainly an important issue in Southeast Alaska, southern Southeast Alaska, and fisheries of course as well. So those two are probably the two things I’m most excited about.”
Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins joins Ortiz on the fisheries committee. Kreiss-Tomkins will be starting up his second term representing his hometown and other communities in central Southeast and says he’s especially excited about his assignments on fisheries and education.
“Fisheries and education are two realms of public policy where you’ve got policy ideas that don’t necessarily divide folks on party lines and are a lot more difficult to categorize in really black and white ideological terms and there’s a lot of ideas you can put forward, at least I’d like to think and believe, that can attract broad support from both sides of the aisle and all different perspectives in both education and fisheries,” he said.
Kreiss-Tomkins also has been tapped for the state affairs committee as well as the rules committee. He’s also excited with the new makeup of the house with Democrats gaining two seats with and Ortiz joining the caucus.
“That makes for a more moderate legislature,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “So when we’re talking some of the proposed constitutional amendments, many of which I and other rural legislators have found concerning. Those constitutional amendments require super majorities and the math becomes a lot more difficult for these amendments to pass with these changes in the elections.”
The Democratic pick-ups in the House boosted the number of seats on some of the committees for the minority members.
As for other Southeast representatives, Democrat Sam Kito III of Juneau has assignments on labor and commerce, the legislative council and the legislative budget and audit committee.
Republican Kathy Munoz of Juneau is caucusing with the House Majority and will be the only Southeast representative on the House Finance Committee.
Meanwhile Southeast’s Senators don’t yet know all their committee assignments. Dennis Egan of Juneau is caucusing with the Senate minority while Bert Stedman remains with the Senate majority. Neither is in top leadership positions announced by the majority this month but should learn committee assignments in December.
You can find a link to an earlier story on the Juneau delegation’s committee assignments here: http://www.ktoo.org/2014/11/09/juneaus-lawmakers-landed-new-alaska-legislature-organization/