Lawmakers relax into session

First day begins with new faces but without Juneau Rep. Kerttula

Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Alaska Legislature gaveled into session Tuesday, the second year of the 26th Legislature, with Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, in Rochester, N.Y., and missing the first-day pomp and circumstance.

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Chris Miller / The Associated Press
Chris Miller / The Associated Press

Meanwhile, freshman Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, served as the dean of the delegation.

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, who was appointed to the Legislature minutes before the end of last year's regular session, is an even newer member of the body.

Kerttula was in New York receiving treatment for a compressed nerve in her thigh that has been causing her chronic pain. While the treatment took longer than expected, she said she hopes to return to Juneau this weekend.

"It's been very vexing," she said.

Kerttula also serves as House Minority Leader, guiding the House's Democratic representatives. House Minority Whip David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, will lead the minority's press conference today, said Frank Ameduri, minority press secretary.

House and Senate majority press conferences Tuesday began staking out positions on oil tax policy, education and energy issues, likely to be among the hot topics in the session leading up to November's legislative and gubernatorial elections.

Among featured ceremonies was the annual singing of the "Alaska Flag Song" by the Alaska Youth Choir and the presentation of the colors by the Girl Scouts of Alaska's Tongass Council.

The Rev. George Silides of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church led the opening-day prayer.

The Legislature returns this session with several new members, in addition to Egan. Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, resigned and Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, was named to replace him.

In the House, the deceased Rep. Richard Foster, D-Nome, was replaced by his son, Neal Foster. And Coghill was replaced by Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole.

First legislative weeks tend to be more organizational than productive, but Gov. Sean Parnell's State of the State address should draw a lot of attention tonight.

This year also comes with new legislative building, the Stewart building, which is connected by a skybridge to the Capitol.

In addition to the administrative offices, a meeting room and public lounge, the Stewart building also includes a day care center.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said that may open up his options for disciplining members who don't behave.

"I may have to issue time-outs, and I just wanted members to be aware of it," he said.

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