Egan looks forward to session

With committee appointments, lawmaker has opportunity to influence legislation affecting Juneau

Posted: Monday, January 18, 2010

Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan starts his first full session Tuesday, having served a day and 15 minutes since his appointment to the Legislature.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Egan was sworn in on the last day of the session in April, 15 minutes before the body took its leave. He then attended a day-long special session in August.

Despite hours at work, Egan is unlikely to make a big impact with his own legislation this year. But thanks to committee appointments, he does have the opportunity to influence important legislation affecting Juneau.

State lawmakers meet every year but the body generally changes over only every two, and Tuesday is the start of the second year.

Bills introduced last year generally have priority over new ones.

"It's tough coming into the second session because you don't have a lot of time to sponsor legislation and think you'll get anything out," Egan said.

Despite that, he and his staff have been communicating with constituents and wrote a short list of issues they want to try to tackle. How many bills he planned to introduce this year, Egan wasn't ready to disclose during an interview in late December.

More important are his committee positions, especially as issues already on the table from last session play out this time.

A bill supporting a new state office building in downtown sponsored by Juneau Rep. Cathy Muñoz stalled last year in the Senate Finance Committee.

"I think we have a better chance this year than last year," Egan said. "Last year, the lack of representation from Juneau hurt it because there was no one there on the Senate side to advocate for it."

The office building is just one on the table for the capital city this session.

The Legislature also will consider new housing for the state library and archives, a project nicknamed SLAM for short, and a $9 million renovation of the Johnson Youth Center, the local juvenile detention center.

Egan could help protect Juneau's standing as the capital on the Legislative Council, since many issues dealing with the downtown campus go through that committee. The council manages the Capitol complex, its satellites and any new additions - work relevant to potential capital move efforts.

Despite statewide recognition of his surname - his father, Bill Egan, was Alaska's first governor and served in the positon twice - Dennis Egan doesn't hesitate to remind people that he's a freshman politician.

The former radio broadcaster spent a significant portion of his youth living in the governor's house and being around policy makers. He recalls taping legislators in talks at the governor's mansion every week as a teenager but remembers the $20 he earned selling the tapes to radio stations - "pretty good money back then" - rather than specifics about the discussions.

Egan, a Democrat, was appointed after an extended battle between then-Gov. Sarah Palin and state and local Democrats.

Palin three times attempted to name a replacement but none of her choices could win confirmation from Senate Democrats. She refused to appoint Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, the choice of local party leaders.

Egan, who formerly served as the city's mayor, was a compromise candidate who won widespread approval.

Speculation that whomever filled the seat formerly held by Kim Elton would be a placeholder for Kerttula was put to rest in November, when Egan announced he would run for a full four-year term. He announced on the same day Kerttula filed a notice of intent to run to keep her own House seat.

Egan said his two committee appointments played a role in his decision to run for a full term.

Egan sold his radio stations and considered himself semi-retired before being appointed to the state Senate. He recently gave up his gig on the call-in radio program Problem Corner.

His freshman orientation will take place today, just hours before the session begins on Tuesday.

• Contact reported Kim Marquisat 523-2279 or

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