Eagle River senator removed as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - An Eagle River Republican has been removed as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Lora Reinbold was the chair of the committee until Monday morning. Her Senate colleagues present in Juneau voted unanimously to remove her from that position after multiple disputes with fellow legislators and nonpartisan staff.
During a Senate Health and Social Services Committee hearing last Thursday, nonpartisan legislative staff did not feel comfortable working in the same room as Reinbold as she pulled her plastic mask down to speak. The meeting ended early and suddenly as they left.
Republican Senate President Peter Micciche of Soldotna said that the change in committee positions is hopefully temporary. He added that Reinbold is a “valuable member” of the caucus but this would give her sometime to regroup.
If she is able to follow the rules and be more respectful during committee hearings, she could head the Judiciary Committee again, Micciche said.
Reinbold was accused by the governor of berating administration officials and wasting time as committee chair. The governor’s February letter blasted her for her behavior and for spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
She has repeatedly asked for the governor to retract the letter and demanded an apology.
On the Senate floor, Reinbold defended her behavior during Judiciary Committee hearings, saying she has not received any formal complaints and that she has been defending Alaskans’ constitutional rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also claimed the decision to remove her as committee chair came from the executive branch which members of her caucus emphatically denied.
Reinbold has repeatedly flouted the Capitol’s COVID-19 rules, but Micciche said that was a separate issue. She was fined $250 earlier this month for violating the Capitol’s policy on wearing face masks.
During an afternoon press availability in a hallway in front of the Senate, Reinbold defended her actions again a few feet away from where the Senate Judiciary Committee was holding a hearing. She was not wearing a face mask.
Micciche interrupted the press conference and said that she would be escorted to her office if she did not put a face covering on, a requirement in the Capitol’s public spaces.
“We will meet in my office,” she said.
In her office, Reinbold called the Senate’s action a “distraction” from debates about the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration and how to spend the latest federal relief package. She sounded less clear if she remains a member of the Senate majority.
Freshman Republican Sen. Roger Holland of Anchorage has replaced Reinbold as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee is in charge of hearing bills related to crime, the Department of Law and the judiciary.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include more information on Reinbold’s removal from her leadership position.
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