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Louise Stutes elected speaker as Alaska House of Representatives organizes

Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 4:57 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska House of Representatives officially organized on February 11th, and is now able to hear and vote on legislation.

This development comes after a three-week standoff that began on January 19th, during which two 20-member caucuses negotiated to form a majority vote for Speaker of the House.

That majority took shape Thursday when Republican Representative Kelly Merrick of Eagle River joined 15 Democrats, 1 Republican, 1 Independent and 3 non-affiliated representatives to vote for Louise Stutes as Speaker.

District 4 Representative Grier Hopkins said he believed the upcoming deadline to extend Governor Mike Dunleavy’s COVID-19 disaster declaration was a factor in Merrick’s decision.

“We welcome her and anybody with open arms to make sure that all Alaska is represented. We had a strong relationship with people from all across the state these last two years, and defended our economy in Fairbanks and the state, and now we have an even bigger task ahead of us in that vein of getting our state back on track. I welcome Representative Merrick to be a part of that and anybody else as well,” Hopkins said.

In a press release Thursday, Representative Merrick made it clear that her vote to elect Stutes as Speaker of the House does not mean that she has joined the Alaska House Coalition.

She explained that “Like most Alaskans, I have been frustrated by taking the same fruitless votes day after day and I felt we could no longer afford to delay extending the Governor’s emergency disaster declaration, crafting a fiscally conservative budget, and passing the construction jobs bill.”

Upon accepting the speakership, Stutes thanked the legislative body for its trust and said she looks forward to uniting the Alaska House of Representatives.

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