Lawmakers launch into new session

Posted: Monday, January 10, 2000

A gavel came down in the state Senate this morning, launching the second year of the 21st Legislature.

A billy club, preferred to the standard gavel by Speaker of the House Brian Porter, was expected to sound the state House into order this afternoon.

Both majority and minority members will be setting agendas during this first week, with the Republican-led majority planning a press conference Tuesday. Also, Finance Committees will start meeting Tuesday to review state spending and what revenues Alaska can expect to see for the next budget year.

The first substantive order of business to follow the show of colors by Boy and Girl Scouts today will be House action on a measure to remove four dissident Republicans from their committee seats.

Porter, an Anchorage Republican and former police chief, said he expected a vote on the matter today. He also expected the four conservative Republicans who quit the House majority over subsistence legislation and budget issues - John Coghill of North Pole, Vic Kohring of Wasilla, Scott Ogan of Palmer and Jerry Sanders of Anchorage - to make some noise.

``I'm sure there'll be some interesting conversation on the floor,'' Porter said.

Ogan, leader of the GOP minority group, said he wore his lightning-emblazoned tie in expectation of sparks flying in the House today.

Though he expected to lose his spot as co-chairman of the House Resources Committee, he said the way he and his compatriots were dealt with didn't comply with the rules that govern legislative action.

``I knew it was going to happen,'' he said from the fourth-floor office he was moved to after he quit the majority. ``But are we going to go into anarchy?''

No Senate fireworks are expected anytime soon, said Senate President Drue Pearce. The Anchorage Republican said the initial order of business was to craft a ``commitment to Alaska'' for presentation Tuesday.

Gov. Tony Knowles was also preparing for his State of the State speech at 7 p.m. Wednesday, which will include his annual budget address.

For the most part, this morning was a time when boxes were emptied, legislators renewed acquaintances and new staff were introduced to various people they will work with at the Capitol for the next four months.

Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat, was getting back up to speed.

``This is mostly going to be a week of settling in,'' he said.

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