A meeting last week of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee was abruptly adjourned by Sen. David Wilson after the nonpartisan staff assigned to the meeting walked out.
Sen. Lora Reinbold had pulled her mask down for several minutes. That much is visible on the video of the meeting. The legislative staff has been instructed to leave a room, if that happens. There is a mask mandate in the Capitol and at least one staffer came perilously close to being put on a ventilator after contracting Covid this session, likely in the building.
While the committee was hearing an amendment by Sen. Tom Begich to a bill, Reinbold pulled her mask down, and left it down for several minutes, while the legislative staff could be seen growing increasingly restless.
Finally, Chair David Wilson called for an at-ease. At that point, the legislative cameras stopped recording sound, but video shows a lively discussion ensuing between the senators.
Those in the room said that Reinbold berated the staff members and said if they were not comfortable working with her when her mask was down, they could look for work elsewhere. They were not the boss of her. After a few minutes, Rep. Wilson called the three staffers back into the room so that he could legally adjourn the meeting.
Watch the end of the meeting here:
The incident may have been the last straw for the Senate Republican-led caucus, which removed Reinbold from the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday morning.
In Judiciary earlier this month, Reinbold also refused to wear her mask and, once again, the legislative staff left the room and that meeting came to a halt.
Reinbold said on the Senate floor that she is blameless and has led the Judiciary Committee well. Before the floor session, she kept her mask off, in defiance of the rules for the Capitol. Last week, she was fined $250 for flouting the mask rule. Legislators and staff don’t have to wear masks while they are in their individual offices, but do when they are in shared spaces in the building, which is cramped and not well ventilated.
People in the building say that the general disrespect Reinbold has shown to staff and colleagues in the Capitol have not been well-received. A main agreement of the majority caucus is that “you don’t beat up on your teammates, and she repeatedly beats up on Republicans on social media,” said one member. She accused Sen. David Wilson of being in the pocket of the governor, has insulted Sens. Peter Micciche, Mia Costello, Shelley Hughes.
For Wilson, it was not about the mask, but that one person has been holding up the business of the entire session, delaying legislation. The session is now past its 90th statutory day and Wilson said no one person should be able to do cause such delays.
Although she lost her committee chair in Judiciary, Reinbold was not kicked out of the Republican caucus and is still vice chair of State Affairs and Legislative Council.