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The dust has settled and, with the makeup of the Alaska House and Senate finalized, it looks like Mat-Su is in a fairly good position.
Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, is the Senate President; a job former SPs have said means doing a lot of handholding. But the Senate President also steers the action in the Senate and appoints members to committees, such as the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, which ultimately hammers out the state budget.
In a press availability following the announcement of new leadership positions, Huggins said he plans to focus on cutting state spending, increasing oil production (likely by working with Gov. Sean Parnell on his plan to cut oil taxes) and bring affordable energy to the state’s users.
Newly elected Sen. Mike Dunleavy chairs the Labor and Commerce Committee in the Senate. Dunleavy is also a member of the TAPS Throughput Decline Committee and is a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
Mat-Su was also favored in the House. Rep. Bill Stoltze, a Republican who represents Chugiak and Butte, as well as a few other parts of Mat-Su, remains co-chair of the House Finance Committee, along with Republican Rep. Alan Austerman of Kodiak. Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, is a member of that committee.
Also in the house, Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, chairs the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Eric Feige, R-Chickaloon, co-chairs the House Resources Committee with Rep. Dan Saddler, R-JBER/Eagle River and Rep. Lynn Gattis, R-Wasilla, chairs the House Education Committee. Rep. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, was chosen as chair of the Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Special Committee in the House.
In case our readers have forgotten, Feige, a pilot and bed-and-breakfast operator, is married to Corri Feige, the former spokeswoman for Evergreen Resources, a company that wanted to drill for shallow natural gas in Mat-Su. She has since been project manager for a few other resource-based companies.
Gattis was elected to the Mat-Su School Board in 2010. She favors school vouchers, backs equal time in the classroom for creationism and evolution and is open to the idea of regional schools for rural areas of the state, according to a Zaz Hollander story in the Frontiersman about her appointment to the Education Committee. Gattis said she plans to resign from the School Board in order to serve in the Legislature. Her campaign manager, Erick Cordero, is School Board vice-president. He’ll be heading to Juneau with Gattis as a legislative aide but plans to stay on the school board.