- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Latest on the Alaska legislative session (all times local):

4:35 p.m.

There are new leaders in both houses of the Alaska Legislature, with lawmakers selecting a new House speaker and Senate president.

But their names shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Democratic Rep. Bryce Edgmon and Republican Sen. Pete Kelly had previously been chosen for those posts by their respective caucuses. The full House and Senate had an opportunity to weigh in on Tuesday.

Edgmon was elected on a 39-1 vote, with Republican Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla casting the lone vote against Edgmon. Kelly was elected without objection.

Edgmon says he is the first speaker of Alaska Native heritage. He also acknowledged Rep. Mike Chenault, who served as speaker for eight years, saying Chenault served in the post with distinction.

Kelly says it meant a lot to be recognized by his peers. He closed his brief comments by saying, “Let’s get to work.”


2:05 p.m.

The Alaska Legislature is underway, with the Senate convening Tuesday afternoon for the start of a session expected to focus on the state’s budget deficit.

The House gaveled in earlier Tuesday afternoon.

While the scheduled 90-day session is expected to be dominated by debate on the budget, Tuesday was a day for ceremony, with lawmakers being sworn in to office by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.


1:45 p.m.

A small group of well-wishers gathered in front of the state Capitol during the noon hour to encourage Alaska lawmakers on the first day of the new legislative session.

The event was part of the Juneau Police Department’s campaign to promote kindness throughout the community in 2017.

Dee Ojard is part of the steering committee for the effort. She says the event was intended to convey support, a sense of “we’re all in this together and we want success.”

The department has encouraged residents to commit daily acts of kindness and to reach out weekly to individuals outside their usual circles.


1:05 p.m.

The Alaska House has convened a regular legislative session expected to focus on addressing the state’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott called the House to order. The Senate is expected to get underway later Tuesday afternoon.

The House this session is under new leadership, with Democratic Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham serving as speaker. The House, long held by Republicans, will be controlled by a coalition comprised of Democrats, three Republicans and two independents.

While the 90-day session is expected to be dominated by debate on the budget, Tuesday was a day for ceremony and for lawmakers to be sworn in to office.


12:35 p.m.

Alaska Senate President Pete Kelly says his Republican-led caucus will evaluate the use of earnings from Alaska’s oil wealth-nest egg as part of a plan to address the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit.

But Kelly says the Senate won’t act on that until there is a spending limit in place and “proven” budget reductions.

Kelly made the comments during a Senate majority news conference Tuesday, ahead of the afternoon start of the scheduled 90-day legislative session.

Last year, the Senate passed a bill that called for structured draws from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to help pay for state government. But the bill faltered in the House.

Leaders of the Senate and new House coalition want to address the deficit but face challenges in finding common ground on thorny issues.

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