House chooses Neal Foster as temporary speaker, but there’s still no majority

Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, speaks to reporters shortly after being elected temporary speaker of the House on Thursday. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Alaska House of Representatives chose Nome Democratic Rep. Neal Foster as its temporary speaker Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer announced the result: “With a vote of 35 yeas, four nays, Rep. Foster has been elected speaker pro tem of the House.”

Sharon Jackson, R-Eagle River, exits the Alaska House chambers moments after being sworn in as the new representative for District 13. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Eagle River resident Sharon Jackson was then sworn in as a representative. Jackson filled a vacancy that was caused when Gov. Mike Dunleavy appointed Nancy Dahlstrom to be the Corrections commissioner.

But the House didn’t take any other action on the third day of the session. Representatives haven’t agreed on a permanent speaker, or on who will serve in the majority caucus.

Foster said he hopes the majority will be announced in the next few days.

“There is a proposal on the table right now in terms of how, you know, something might work, but there’s been so many proposals going back and forth that until it happens, you don’t know,” Foster said.

The House can’t form committees or start work on bills until there’s a majority.

Foster was elected after Big Lake Republican Rep. Mark Neuman lost a vote to be temporary speaker, 19 to 20.

Foster said he will have limited powers as the temporary speaker. Primarily, he will be able to take nominations for the permanent speaker. He said House members are discussing whether to invite Dunleavy for the State of the State address.

On a separate topic, the House has agreed to continue to employ its staff until a majority is formed. The representatives reached the agreement on Wednesday, which means the workers didn’t have a break in employment and they can keep their health insurance.