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The Latest: Alaska House starts with no clear majority

January 15, 2019

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Latest on the start of the Alaska legislative session (all times local):

1:07 p.m.

The Alaska House has convened amid uncertainty over control of the chamber.

While Republicans will hold 23 of the House’s 40 seats, lawmakers don’t always organize by party. Two Republicans have caucused with Democrats the last two years and indicated a desire to be part of a coalition. A third left the GOP caucus, concerned with its small size and ability to function well.

Another Republican, Sharon Jackson, awaited confirmation by fellow Republicans and being seated. She was appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to fill the Eagle River-area seat vacated by Nancy Dahlstrom, who became Dunleavy’s corrections commissioner.

Issues immediately before the House will focus on choosing a temporary speaker, in the absence of an organized majority, and addressing staffing concerns.

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11:10 a.m.

The Alaska Senate has convened, ushering in the start of the new legislative session.

The House is scheduled to meet early Tuesday afternoon.

The start of session is generally full of ceremony, but it is not without drama this year, as attention focuses on the House, which has struggled to organize a majority.

While Republicans will hold 23 of the House’s 40 seats, lawmakers don’t always organize by party. Two Republicans have caucused with Democrats the last two years and indicated a desire to be part of a coalition. A third left the GOP caucus, concerned with its small size and ability to function well.

Big issues await lawmakers, including ongoing debates over the budget, crime and the annual check residents receive from the Alaska Permanent Fund.

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4 a.m.

The Alaska Legislature convenes Tuesday with attention focused on the House, which has struggled to organize a majority.

Republicans will hold 23 seats, which would be enough for a small majority in the 40-member chamber. However, party affiliation doesn’t always dictate how organizations are formed.

Two Republicans have caucused with Democrats the last two years and a third left the GOP caucus, concerned with its small size.

The Senate is scheduled to convene first, late Tuesday morning.

The first day is generally marked by ceremony. Members are sworn in and assume their new roles. But the House has yet to finalize leadership or committee memberships.

There also was the question of whether most House staff could work past Tuesday, when a temporary hiring authorization was set to expire.

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