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Soldotna Rep. First-time MP Justin Ruffridge co-chairs the caucus

Soldotna Rep.  First-time MP Justin Ruffridge co-chairs the caucus
Soldotna Republican Rep. Justin Ruffridge on the last leg of the campaign. Ruffridge said on the House floor that he and other legislators are seeing in the freshman caucus that similar statewide issues are coming up from constituents. (Sabine Pox/KDLL)

Soldotna Republican Representative Justin Ruffridge is leading an informal caucus of first-timers in the Alaska State House.

In a floor session last week, Ruffridge said the 17 freshmen in the House span geographies and ideologies but are united on a few issues — and in their newness to the Alaska Legislature.

“Our objective will be to discuss ideas, debate policy and share the issues most important to those constituents who include districts from across the state,” Ruffridge said. “Most importantly, we will continue to build a great working relationship.”

Members of the Alaska Legislature organize themselves into caucuses – or groups with similar goals or interests.

In the State House, formal Majority and Minority Caucuses receive additional staff and determine committee assignments. Ruffridge is part of the Republican-led majority caucus.

But there are also other, informal caucuses that come together to discuss issues – such as the four-member Bush Caucus, representing rural Alaska. Contains Independent and Democrat Rep. From Bethel, Dillingham, Nome and Utkiagvik. In the past, the informal caucus has sometimes been the predecessor to the formal, governing caucus.

The new representatives in the Rajya Sabha this year are Largest class in two decadesWith 17 new delegates — seven Republicans, eight Democrats and two independents, according to the Anchorage Daily News. This is almost half of the 40-member House.

Ruffridge said the members met during a multi-day training in December to learn how the state government works.

“We were also able to learn and understand each other,” Ruffridge said. “We began to learn what was important to each other. We talked about the number of issues that were important to constituents in our respective districts.”

He said he wanted to understand the complex issues facing Alaska. And he said there would be times when they would vote together — and times when they would not vote together.

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“Let me be clear: We will not agree on every issue,” Rafiz said. “But through meaningful dialogue, we will strive to better understand the reasons behind the decision-making process.”

Representative Andrew Gray, an Anchorage Democrat, is the other chair of the caucus.

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