Sitka’s Stedman, Kodiak’s Stevens join new Senate majority

Every Republican in the Alaska Senate is now a member of the majority caucus.

Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens, who served as Senate President the previous four years, joined Thursday afternoon. He’ll chair the Senate Education Committee, and serve on the Legislative Council and as chair of the World Trade Committee.

Sitka Senator Bert Stedman joined the majority Thursday evening. He will chair the Health and Social Services Committee after previously serving as co-chair of the powerful Finance Committee.

Stevens and Stedman were among the leaders of the Senate Bipartisan Working Group, which formed in 2008, and last year included all ten Senate Democrats and six Republicans.

The newly elected Republican majority organized Thursday, with Senator Charlie Huggins of Wasilla as president. It is the first time in six years the state senate has not been organized as a coalition of Republicans and Democrats. Stevens and Stedman were not among the organizers.

Stevens and Stedman were forceful opponents of Gov. Sean Parnell’s plan to reduce oil taxes over the last two sessions.

Other senators in the Republican majority leadership include John Coghill of North Pole as Majority Leader and Lesil McGuire of Anchorage is the new Rules chair. Kevin Meyer of Anchorage and Pete Kelly of Fairbanks are the new Finance co-chairs.

In a news release, the Republican majority caucus says it will focus on increasing oil production, delivering affordable energy to Alaskans, and developing sustainable budgets. It also announced interest in helping declining salmon runs, improving graduation rates and job training, and establishing Alaska’s role as the gateway to the Arctic.