House Speaker Louise Stutes saying “21 strong” during this morning’s availability with reporters didn’t go unnoticed by Associated Press reporter Becky Bohrer who asked “Does that confirm that Rep. Tarr is back in the group?”
It’s been a question looming over the majority House Coalition, which laid claim to the chamber’s majority in mid-February with a 20-member majority of Democrats, independents and two Republicans. Not among the members was Anchorage Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr, who refused to join after an internal dispute but still supported the election of House Speaker Stutes.
“Yes, I’m happy to say she is, and we’re excited. She’s a valued member of our coalition, she’s a strong member, she’s a supportive member, she fights for her district, and we’re lucky to have her as part of our coalition,” Stutes replied to the question. “So, the answer is yes.”
The move was largely expected and even Tarr said during a floor speech that she was in the process of finding a home in a caucus, but it also gives the House Coalition the votes needed to maintain the majority and move legislation.
After taking more than a month to form the House organization and assign committees, the House has been playing catch up for the past month. Today, House leadership acknowledged that the session will likely stretch past the 121-day deadline set in the Alaska Constitution in order to handle the budget, the dividend and the incoming funding from the federal American Rescue Plan. The federal act is expected to provide Alaska more than $1 billion in relief aimed at helping combat the health and economic impacts of the pandemic as well as, for the first time, replace revenue lost during the pandemic.