Senate Republican leadership Senators have had enough of extreme-right Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold and voted 17-1 on Monday to remove her from the Senate Judiciary Committee, a platform that she used as chair to spread false and misleading information about the covid-19 pandemic.
Reinbold has frequently sparred with pretty much everyone else in the building over her repeated flouting of the building’s covid-19 health precautions. She was removed from several hearings, excluded from the Senate for refusing to follow health precautions and fined $250 earlier this month for an “egregious” violation of health policies.
Her feud with Gov. Mike Dunleavy over the state’s handling of the pandemic resulted in a scathing letter from Dunleavy accusing her of spreading false and misleading information about the state’s handling of the pandemic and a prohibition on administration members participating with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Reinbold and her theatrics have made for sideshow-like hearings that have drawn plenty of attention but have made for relatively little legislative progress, which appears to have strained the patience of Senate leadership to the breaking point.
Leadership has yet to release an official statement on the action, but during her floor speech against the change Reinbold claimed that it was because her committee has not taken any substantial action on a slate of constitutional amendments proposed by Gov. Dunleavy to address the dividend and state budget. She alleged multiple times that the Senate leadership was taking orders from Dunleavy.
“I find today’s actions align with the same approach the governor took in his letter. It’s un-American, unacceptable and a violation of the constitutional rights of the accused,” she said. “No clear charges, no due process and no appeals process, yet punishment is issued by my colleagues, publicly. … If somebody is unjustly punished, all humanity is at risk.”
During her floor speech, Reinbold claimed that she had tried to meet with Senate leadership to address whatever “legitimate” concerns they had with her performance to find a “better path forward.” She also blamed the Senate clerks for her committee’s inaction on the governor’s policy proposals.
The vote was 17-1 with only Reinbold casting a vote against the change. Sens. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, and Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, had started session as close Reinbold allies but have since seen Reinbold’s ire directed at them—particularly toward Hughes—during committee hearings. They also voted in favor of removing Reinbold from the committee.
What’s next: Reinbold still has several committee memberships. She is the vice chair on the Senate State Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Shower, and is the vice chair of the Legislative Council. While it has long been a question of whether Reinbold’s removal would trigger a collapse of the Republican-led Senate Majority, it would appear Sens. Shower and Hughes are not particularly eager to tag along.
Who takes over: The Senate Judiciary Committee is now in the hands of freshman Sen. Roger Holland, R-Anchorage. Holland will leave his position as vice chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, which will be taken over by committee member Sen. Josh Revak. Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, fill the vacant seat on the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.