UPDATE: Munoz gets Finance seat, Kerttula keeps Minority Leader post

Representative Mike Chenault will return for his third term as House Speaker when the 2013 Alaska Legislature convenes in January.

House Republicans organized Thursday, two days after the general election.

Representative Lance Pruitt of Anchorage is majority leader, Craig Johnson of Anchorage retains chairmanship of House Rules, and Kodiak’s Alan Austerman and Mat-Su’s Bill Stoltze are co-chairs of the House Finance Committee.

Juneau Representative Cathy Munoz says she likes the geographic make-up of House leadership. However, for the moment she is the only member of the House Finance Committee from Southeast Alaska.

“Finance committee members are just assigned to the finance committee, because each of the majority members then manages one or more of the state departmental budgets. So it’s a lot of work,” Munoz says. “I’ve put in a request for the Department of Administration, since that’s such a big department in Juneau and so important to so many issues that affect Juneau and our region.”

House leaders have promised Haines Republican Bill Thomas a Finance Committee seat, if he beats Sitka Democrat Jonathon Kreiss-Tomkins, who is current 43 votes ahead in the House District 34 race.

Meanwhile, Munoz hopes her position on Finance allows her to secure financing for a variety of regional projects.

“I’ll be looking out for not only Juneau but all of the communities in Southeast that have energy projects before the Finance Committee,” she says. “Education funding is a priority, and making sure that infrastructure needs in the capital are taken care of, you know, we have ongoing needs in the State Capitol building.”

Munoz also says she’ll focus on continued funding for a new State Library, Archives and Museums facility set to break ground in Juneau soon. She’d also like a new state office building, though she admits that’s more of a long term goal.

Twenty-five Republicans and 15 Democrats were elected to the House. Rural Alaska Democrats Neal Foster, Bryce Edgmon, Bob Herron and Ben Nageak have joined the Republican majority.

Juneau’s other Representative, Beth Kerttula was named Minority Leader late Friday. It’s a post she’s held since 2007.

Kerttula’s House District 32 now includes Petersburg, Skagway, Gustavus and Tenakee Springs thanks to the state’s once a decade redistricting process. Previously, her district encompassed just downtown Juneau and Douglas Island.

Anchorage Rep. Chris Tuck will be the House Democratic Whip, and Rep. Max Gruenberg, also of Anchorage, is House Democratic Floor Leader.

House Democrats also named Les Gara, of Anchorage, and David Guttenberg and Scott Kawasaki, both of Fairbanks, to the House Finance Committee. The 11-member minority is guaranteed three finance seats, but if Democrats’ numbers drop to ten, the caucus would only have two.

“Part of organization is figuring out where the numbers are, how many seats you have and then planning for it,” she says. “We’re very optimistic that we hold this or go up.

Kerttula says other minority committee assignments will be announced after absentee and question ballots are counted.  Two races are two close to call:  Jonathon Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka is just 43 votes ahead of Republican Rep. Bill Thomas of Haines.  Pete Peterson of Anchorage is 97 votes behind Republican Lance Pruitt.

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