—Posted by Matt Buxton, staff writer
Another day and another senator joins the the Republican-led Senate Majority.
After shoring up all 13 Republicans, including key defenders of the now-defunct bipartisan coalition, the majority today announced Juneau Democrat Dennis Egan will be joining its ranks.
Egan will get the chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee out of the deal, but what’s more important is that this clears a possible path for the Republicans to form a supermajority in the 20-member body.
If the Senate Majority can get two more Democrats—which would likely be rural Sens. Lyman Hoffman and Donny Olson—to join its team, it would grow the group to 16.
That would mean the remaining four-member Democratic minority wouldn’t qualify as an official caucus next year and wouldn’t be guaranteed any seats on the all-important Senate Finance Committee or the Senate Resources Committee, where any oil tax legislation would make a stop.
If such a division of power takes shape, it would leave the four Democrats without much to do in Juneau.
The possible Democratic superminority, as I’m calling it, would likely contain four Democrats who are the most outspoken on the issue of slashing oil taxes. Those are Anchorage-area Democratic Sens. Bill Wielechowski, Berta Gardner, Johnny Ellis and Hollis French.
Both Wielechowski and French faced stiff opposition from industry dollars during the election, but it appears they both survived the election.
It could also be a taste of their own medicine. The bipartisan coalition swelled to a 16-member supermajority during the last session, leaving four Republicans out in the cold. Those Republicans are now enjoying power positions under the new Senate Majority.