Senate Republicans pick Halford as president

Posted: Sunday, November 19, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Chugiak Sen. Rick Halford will return to the Senate president's chair when the Legislature convenes next year.

Sen. Loren Leman, R-Anchorage, said Republican Majority senators completed most organization details in a phone meeting Saturday and chose Halford as president and Leman as majority leader.

Current Senate President Drue Pearce of Anchorage will head the Rules Committee, the gatekeeper for legislation that reaches the floor of the Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee, which handles every bill that spends state money, will have co-chairmen from Alaska's largest cities. Sen. Dave Donley of Anchorage will oversee the operating budget and Sen. Pete Kelly of Fairbanks will handle the capital budget and the rest of the bills, Leman said.

''There's your core five,'' Leman said of the Senate leadership.

The 14 Republicans in the 20-member Senate were split into two major groups in the days after the election and left two days of meetings last week without reaching a decision on leaders. Electing a president and committee chairmen takes 11 votes.

One group, led by Halford, included conservatives Donley, Robin Taylor of Wrangell, Jerry Ward of Anchorage, Lyda Green of Palmer, and newly elected John Cowdery from Anchorage.

The second group was aligned with Kelly and included Pearce, Gary Wilken of Fairbanks, John Torgerson of Kasilof and two other new senators, Gene Therriault of North Pole and Alan Austerman of Kodiak.

Leman and Randy Phillips of Eagle River began the process unaligned with either camp.

Leman said the deliberations started with choosing between three senators qualified to be president -- Halford, Kelly and him.

''Eventually my desires were subjected to what the group desired,'' Leman said. ''I'm willing to do that and pull together as a team.''

Leman said a committee of five senators worked on a compromise that considered priorities of both camps and geographical representation in key assignments.

In the plan agreed upon Saturday, Taylor will again head the Judiciary Committee. Torgerson will chair the Resources Committee. Therriault will head the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee and Green will take charge of the Health, Education and Social Services Committee.

Leman said most Republican seats have been assigned to the Finance Committee. Wilken, Green, Ward and Austerman will be on the nine-member committee.

If Democrat Bettye Davis' lead holds up for the remaining Senate seat, the Democrats will have six members in the Senate and two seats on the Finance Committee.

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