Despite a majority of Republicans in both houses of the Alaska Legislature, bills intended to promote pro-life laws, parental rights, religious liberty and restrictions on pornography and sex-education in schools are not likely to land on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk for his signature.
With leadership of the House once again organized into a multi-party majority, socially conservative legislators have far less influence than they would if House leadership was traditionally structured according to party affiliation.
The House has 23 Republicans, 14 Democrats, one Independent, one undeclared and one non-affiliated representative. Regardless of the clear Republican numerical advantage, enough House Republicans have once again joined Democrats and others to form a multi-party majority that controls key positions of power and influence in the House.
Six of the 23 House Republicans are members of the current majority. They are joined by all 14 Democrats and the Independent, undeclared and non-affiliated representatives.
Some of the most pro-life and pro-family conservatives have only one or two committee assignments, which greatly reduces their influence.
As a result, Republicans comprise just 37 of the 76 positions in the 10 standing committees which hear bills, make amendments and eventually decide whether to allow a vote of the full House on proposed legislation. Leadership in these committees is even more disparate. Republicans account for just three chairmanships or co-chairmanships, compared to 14 for Democrats.
Committee chairs decide when and whether a proposed bill will be heard and possibly moved out of committee. With few social conservatives in these positions, there is little chance of advancing socially conservative legislation.
Some of the most pro-life and pro-family conservatives, such as Representatives George Rauscher of Sutton, David Eastman of Wasilla, Sharon Jackson of Eagle River, and Colleen Sullivan-Lenard of Wasilla, have only one or two committee assignments, which greatly reduces their influence.
Rauscher has introduced one bill to prohibit state-funded sex change operations, and another to ban explicit and controversial sex education in schools. Eastman introduced bills to ban abortion, strengthen religious liberty, and restrict the pervasiveness of pornography. Sullivan-Lenard is a co-sponsor of Eastman’s religious liberty bill, as is Jackson who is also a co-sponsor of the measure to ban abortion.
On the flip side, the House majority includes some of the most socially liberal legislators, including the likes of Representatives Grier Hopkins, Geran Tarr, Zack Fields, Johnathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Matt Claman, Harriet Drummond, Andi Story and Sara Hannan, all of whom are co-sponsors of Rep. Andy Josephson’s bill to expand LGBTQ rights to the detriment of religious liberties for businesses, schools and non-profits. These eight legislators combine for 25 committee memberships with eight chairs or co-chairs.
ALASKA HOUSE BY THE NUMBERS
- Party affiliation: 23 Republicans, 14 Democrats, one Independent, one undeclared, one non-affiliated
- House Majority Membership: 14 Democrats, six Republicans, one independent, one undeclared, one non-affiliated
- Standing Committee Members: 37 Republicans, 35 Democrats, two Independent, one undeclared, one non-affiliated
- Committee chairs & co-chairs: 14 Democrats, three Republicans, one undeclared
- Republicans who joined Democrats and others to form House majority
- Jennifer Johnston-R, Anchorage
- Gary Knopp-R, Kenai
- Chuck Kopp-R, Anchorage
- Bart LeBon-R, Fairbanks
- Louise Stutes-R, Kodiak
- Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks