ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Juneau Empire reports that Rep. Sam Kito, D- Juneau, has quit the House majority coalition, though the lawmaker himself would not comment on his situation Wednesday afternoon.
According to the Juneau Empire article, Kito will not join the Republican-led minority, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon indicated that the majority coalition was left with the bare-minimum majority of 21 members in a 40-member house.
Wednesday afternoon, after the story's publication, Kito served as chairman of a meeting of the House Labor & Commerce committee, a position afforded to members of the majority coalition.
After the meeting, Kito would not answer reporters’ questions about his current situation, nor did he return a phone call earlier in the day.
On March 21, Kito told his constituents in an e-newsletter that he would not seek re-election because of a decision by the Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission to eliminate per diem payments to lawmakers who live within 50 miles of the Legislature’s meeting place.
Kito says the per diem paid to Juneau legislators amounts to $20,000 less during regular and extended sessions, and more than $60,000 less than lawmakers from other parts of the state if there are three special sessions in Juneau in one year.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed serving on behalf of the residents of District 33,” Kito wrote in the newsletter, “however I have had to accept the realization that our legislative system is heavily weighted in favor of those Alaskans who are either retired, have a working spouse or have independent sources of income.”
Tuesday, Kito left a House Rules Committee meeting unexpectedly. He voted against accepting a committee substitute for a bill about smoking in businesses, but shortly after that vote roll call was read, he closed his laptop computer and left, before amendments to that substitute bill were discussed. He said before his departure that he was disappointed the bill was being pushed out of committee without hearings or ample vetting.
Watch that part of the hearing below:
Channel 2's Rich Mauer contributed to this report from Juneau.