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Chenault, Huggins introduce new legislators

Orientation last week for Kreiss-Tomkins, others new to Legislature

Posted: January 13, 2013 - 1:09am
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Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, right, walks out of the House Chamber with Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, after a mock floor session on Friday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, right, walks out of the House Chamber with Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, after a mock floor session on Friday.

Alaska House of Representatives Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Senate President-elect Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, spoke Friday evening at a reception for legislators at the Terry Miller Legislative Office Building to introduce members-elect of the House and Senate.

Seventeen newly-elected members of the House and Senate will be sworn in alongside returning lawmakers Tuesday afternoon at the Alaska State Capitol when the 28th Alaska State Legislature convenes.

Two of those 17 are senators-elect who are outgoing state representatives. Sens.-elect Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River, and Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, are the pair of lawmakers moving up from the House to the Senate.

Another, Rep. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, was elected to her first full term last November after being appointed to serve out the unexpired term of Carl Gatto. Then-Rep. Gatto died in office last April.

“While she’s been a representative representing the district that Rep. Gatto used to represent, she hadn’t had the honor and the privilege, I guess, yet of voting,” Chenault said.

Hughes took office last May, days after the House adjourned sine die.

Sen.-elect Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, returning to the Legislature after a decade’s absence, also received a special tribute from Huggins as Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, affixed a senatorial pin to his lapel.

“We’re certainly proud to have Pete back with us,” said Huggins.

Due to legislative redistricting changing district numbers across the state, Southeast Alaska’s only new lawmaker, Rep.-elect Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, will be representing House District 34. A different seat with that same number has been represented by Chenault in the House since 2003; the speaker will be representing House District 28 instead in the incoming Legislature.

After introducing Kreiss-Tomkins, Chenault quipped, “I expect him to be around a while because District 34 was my old district.”

New legislators spent much of last week in orientation, attending meetings on everything from the budget process to rules and etiquette.

“It’s very comprehensive,” said Sen.-elect Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks. Of the start of the legislative session Tuesday, he remarked, “I’m ready to go. The sooner we get started, the sooner we get done.”

Bishop, a former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, added, “I’m glad to be back in Juneau and looking forward to a productive session.”

Kreiss-Tomkins said the orientation was “really great,” giving the staff and legislators who organized and led it an “A-plus.”

“It’s the basic ground rules of how the institution works,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “People trying to help you help yourself and not screw up and make a dolt of yourself.”

Kreiss-Tomkins said he is feeling “much more ready to go than a few days ago.”

After receiving his legislative pin and posing for a few photographs with staff members and fellow members-elect, Rep.-elect Benjamin Nageak, D-Barrow, was upbeat.

“I really enjoyed it,” Nageak said of orientation. “I learned a lot during the few days that we had together, and I’m looking forward to doing what needs to be done for the state after learning a lot of things in the last couple days.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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