JUNEAU (AP) -- Anchorage Democrats Ethan Berkowitz and Johnny Ellis will return as minority leaders of the House and Senate when the Legislature convenes in January.
The Democratic minority announced its leaders and committee assignments on Wednesday. Rep. Reggie Joule of Kotzebue will return as House minority whip, while newly elected Sen. Donny Olson of Nome will assume that spot in the Senate.
Because the Democrats picked up a Senate seat in the recent election, they'll get two seats on the influential Senate Finance Committee instead of one. Retiring Sen. Al Adams of Kotzebue had been the Democrats' only voice on the panel that debates the state's budget and virtually all bills of substance. Kim Elton of Juneau and Lyman Hoffman of Bethel will take his place.
Republicans hold a 14-6 advantage in the Senate, while the GOP controls a 28-12 majority in the House.
''We're outnumbered but we've got them surrounded,'' Berkowitz joked.
On the House Finance Committee, Eric Croft of Anchorage will take over the seat formerly held by Ben Grussendorf of Sitka, who is retiring this year. John Davies of Fairbanks and Carl Moses of Unalaska return to the committee.
Among the other committees in the House, the most notable change was Joule's move from the Resources Committee, where he was an outspoken advocate of subsistence rights for rural Alaskans, to the Health, Education and Social Services Committee. That panel will likely be the setting for heated debate on several hot education issues, including the formula that allocates how state education money is divided between cities and the Bush.
''We thought it was real important to have a rural representative on HESS,'' Berkowitz said.
Joule's spot on the Resources Committee will be filled by Beth Kerttula of Juneau, an attorney who worked in the Department of Law's oil and gas division before she was first elected two years ago.
Kerttula's spot on the Judiciary Committee will be filled by Berkowitz, another of the three lawyers in the minority.
In the Senate, the Democrats will also get an additional seat on the Resources Committee, where Olson will join Georgianna Lincoln of Rampart, who had been the minority's sole representative.
Freshman Democrats in both chambers face a full schedule of committee hearings. Newly elected Sen. Bettye Davis of Anchorage, who formerly served in the House, was named to the Labor and Commerce, State Affairs and HESS committees.
In the House, freshman Joe Hayes of Fairbanks was assigned to the State Affairs, Labor and Commerce, Community and Regional Affairs, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Regional Review committees.
Gretchen Guess of Anchorage will serve on Transportation, Community and Regional Affairs, the Special Committee on Oil and Gas and the Special Committee on Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.
Harry Crawford of Anchorage will join the State Affairs, Labor and Commerce, and Economic Development, Trade and Tourism panels.
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