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Discord in Juneau continues, Senate leaders elect to remove one of their own from Capitol over mask policies

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River.
Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River.(KTUU)
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 8:26 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In Juneau, the events of Wednesday’s Senate floor session have resulted in one member of the body being barred from common areas inside of the Capitol building and from participating in certain legislative activities, citing what leadership considers to be a continued refusal to follow precautions against COVID-19.

The situation centers around Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, and a clear, plastic face shield that she has elected to wear in the place of a cloth mask.

Up until recently, Reinbold had been allowed to conduct legislative business while wearing the face shield; however, a recent outbreak of COVID-19 within the Capitol has resulted in heightened restrictions for everyone who does business there.

Alaska’s News Source has confirmed that as many as 27 active cases were being monitored earlier this month. As recently as March 9, there were still seven active cases. One of those individuals remains hospitalized.

On Wednesday, Sen. Gary Stevens called for the vote to “exclude any senator from the Capitol building, until such a time as they follow legislative council policies.”

The initial vote showed 17 in favor, with only Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, and Senate Majority Leader Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, in opposition. Before a final record was recorded, Hughes changed her vote, in favor of supporting the enforcement of legislative council policies.

Before the vote, Stevens said that Reinbold was the only one out of 59 lawmakers that has not been wearing an approved mask, participating in COVID-19 testing through Beacon, or submitting her temperature when entering the building.

Reinbold has not responded to requests for a comment or response to those claims — or the actions that were taken against her. She has made several posts to her Facebook page.

Reinbold wrote on Wednesday that the Legislative Council’s rules were “controversial and arbitrarily applied.”

The senator also recounted her recent experience of being removed from a House committee meeting by security.

“This is outrageous behavior on leadership part,” she wrote. “This is not leadership, it crosses the line.”

On Thursday morning, House Republicans addressed the issue during a press availability.

Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, told those in attendance that she would not pass judgment on Reinbold or the other legislative body.

Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, acknowledged that fatigue is starting to set in as legislators juggle their business and concerns related to the virus.

Rep. Stephen Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said that vaccinations were a big part of the path forward for lawmakers. Thompson added that he did not support Reinbold’s actions.

“The faster that we can get everybody vaccinated and back to normal business will be a big plus for trying to get our work done,” he said.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct that there were still active COVID-19 cases as of March 9. A previous version of this story mistakenly said May 9.

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