Senate majority sees committee shakeup after 2019 budget vote

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The first day of the 2020 Alaska legislative session saw a shakeup of key committee positions in the Senate, some changes were made as a result of three senators failing to vote in 2019 along caucus lines on key legislation.

After a six-hour caucus meeting behind closed doors, Sens. Mike Shower, Shelley Hughes and Lora Reinbold, Republicans from Wasilla, Palmer and Eagle River were stripped of committee chairmanships of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the State Affairs Committee and the Transportation Committee.

The three Republicans voted against or did not vote for a budget bill in 2019 that contained a $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, a Republican from Anchorage, said the three senators’ decision was their own choice make but it violated the rules of the caucus, resulting in their loss of key committee positions.

On the Senate Floor Tuesday evening, the three senators expressed their frustration with Reinbold categorizing her loss of committee positions as a “major, major reorganization of power.”

Reinbold also voiced her disagreement with Senate leadership that voting against the budget bill that contained a $1,600 PFD constituted a violation of caucus rules.

The Senate voted 13-7 to approve the changes.

In a separate decision, the Senate Finance Committee was shrunk from nine members to seven with Shower and Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche being removed from the committee.

Micciche was chosen to chair the Senate Resources Committee that had been headed by the late-Sen. Chris Birch, an Anchorage Republican, who passed away in the interim.

According to Giessel, Sens. Bert Stedman and Natasha von Imhof, Republicans from Sitka and Anchorage who co-chair the committee, made the decision to shrink its numbers.

On the Senate floor, Shower commented that two of the more conservative members of the Senate Finance Committee had been taken off the powerful body.

Despite the division, the Senate President said the caucus would continue to function.

“We are still the majority caucus, we are still Republicans together with the same core values of passing a funded budget, a reduced budget as much as possible, in a timely manner,” Giessel said before adding that she was not expecting anymore changes as the session goes on.

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