Alaska House cancels official meeting plans until next week



JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska House canceled another floor session Wednesday over what Speaker Louise Stutes said was a reluctance by some minority Republican lawmakers to comply with masking rules.

The House does not plan to hold another official session until next week, said Joe Plesha, director of communications for the House majority coalition.

Stutes had announced on Monday that masks would be required in House rooms until further notice, citing cases of COVID-19. She told reporters on Wednesday that several minority Republican lawmakers chose not to wear masks.

“That’s politics, and if you think you’re going to come here and totally ignore politics, we’re just not going to have a session,” she said.

Minority House Republicans have criticized the way the situation has been handled, saying in a statement Tuesday that “the fact that some choose not to wear masks is not a valid excuse to adjourn or abruptly cancel the sitting at the ground “.

Minority Leader Cathy Tilton was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

A technical floor session, which includes little more than hammering, was scheduled for Thursday, according to Stutes’ office.

Plesha said that given the “continued refusal of a few representatives to follow the temporary mask requirement on the House floor while we try to manage an active COVID outbreak in the building, the floor session has been canceled. until next week when the number of cases will hopefully subside.”

There are no universal masking rules in effect at the Capitol. But the Speakers of the House and Senate have authority over their respective chambers and can impose masking requirements within them, the executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency said.

Stutes suspended a floor session on Monday, saying there were members who had “chosen not to comply” with the rules. Sessions upstairs on the following two days were cancelled.

The Senate did not impose a masking rule amid the latest spike in cases and held floor sessions this week, taking up multiple bills. Some senators wore masks on the floor Wednesday; some don’t.

The House has yet to read a state budget bill that was introduced to committee last week. This is a necessary step before the package can be debated.

The 40-person House includes a 21-member majority coalition led by Stutes, an 18-member Republican minority and a Republican representative who is not part of a caucus.

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