JUNEAU — Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, was escorted from a meeting of the Alaska House Health and Social Services Committee on Tuesday after being asked to wear an anti-COVID mask.
At the time, Reinbold was wearing a transparent face shield that did not follow the Legislature’s mask mandate.
Rules in place since the start of this year’s legislative session require legislators and staff to wear tight-fitting, CDC-approved masks in committee hearings and in the House and Senate chambers.
“I’ve noticed my friend from Eagle River has joined us, and I would just ask that she wear a mask that’s compliant with (Legislative Affairs Agency) policy if she’s going to remain in the room,” said Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage.
After Fields’ comment, the committee’s two co-chairs paused the hearing, an act that cut the hearing’s online audio feed. The video feed continued to broadcast. It showed Speaker of the House Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak and House Rules Committee chairman Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, arriving at the hearing and talking to Reinbold.
A Capitol security officer accompanied the two.
After a short period, all three left the meeting, accompanying Reinbold out of the room.
Asked by text message and through a Senate Majority spokesman what happened, Reinbold offered no comment.
In a Facebook post containing a 26-second video, she said she “was innocently watching the House committee proceedings” and “Shockingly, I was directed to leave by Speaker Stutes escorted by Rep (Edgmon) with Security present.”
The video shows Stutes and Edgmon politely asking her to wear a mask and offering her one.
“I have one,” Reinbold said, referring to her face shield.
“No. That doesn’t work in here, and that’s not the parameters that we have set for the House. So if you want to stay in here, you’re either going to have to put a mask on or you’re going to have to leave,” Stutes said.
Jessica Geary, director of the nonpartisan agency that operates the Capitol on behalf of the Legislature, said she was not removed by Capitol security: “She was asked to leave by the co-chairs for not wearing a proper face covering — not ‘removed’ — I asked security to assist.”
Reinbold has been a leading opponent of state and local measures intended to restrict the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has accused her of spreading misinformation.
She has worn a loose-fitting transparent face shield since the start of the session but has not been called to account until this week, after an outbreak of COVID-19 within the Capitol.
On Monday, she was asked on the Senate floor and in a budget subcommittee meeting to wear a mask that follows the rules. In both cases, she left the scene rather than follow the rule.