In an unusual announcement, Juneau Democratic Rep. Sam Kito III said he will no longer commit to voting with the Alaska House majority caucus.
“My hope is, being able to step out, halfway out of caucus, or all the way out of caucus, and work with both sides – minority, majority – if they feel like they need my vote to be able to move a budget, to try and work towards a solution that works for everybody and gets us out of here in a reasonable amount of time,” Kito said.
But Kito and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon both said Kito is still a member of the caucus. He will continue to serve as the chairman of the Legislative Council and the House Labor and Commerce Committee.
The change means an already thin majority is even more fragile.
Kito objected to how House Rules Committee Chairwoman Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, handled Senate Bill 63, a measure that would ban smoking in workplaces across the state. Despite support for the legislation in the caucus, she didn’t schedule it for a vote until this week, when the committee changed the bill to allow municipalities to opt out from the smoking ban.
Kito said the leadership has failed to unite the caucus on bills like the smoking ban.
“In this case, it wasn’t the caucus coming together, it was an individual. And that’s the frustrating thing,” Kito said.
The 22-member majority caucus includes 17 Democrats, three Republicans and two independents. The caucus can lose no more than one vote to pass bills, without seeking votes from the minority Republican caucus. Edgmon said he’ll continue to talk with Kito about individual votes.
“If Rep. Kito needs to vote in a particular way and, you know, it’s a close vote, for example, I think he’ll give me the opportunity to know in advance,” Edgmon said. “Certainly, I will be working with him so that if we do need his vote on something that, you know, we can have that conversation.”
Kito is not running for re-election.