Women members of the Alaska House of Representatives from both parties meet in the hallway of the capitol Wednesday, March 3, 2021, to discuss a vote to condemn Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, for sexists comments he made on the floor the previous week. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Women members of the Alaska House of Representatives from both parties meet in the hallway of the capitol Wednesday, March 3, 2021, to discuss a vote to condemn Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, for sexists comments he made on the floor the previous week. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Lawmaker could face formal rebuke for sexist comments

Absences in the House delayed the vote

The Alaska House of Representatives is considering taking action against Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, for remarks he made on the floor of the House last month. A vote on the matter was delayed until Friday, but the call for the vote led to lengthy discussions among lawmakers.

Last month, Fields made a joke about Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, during remarks made on the House floor while noting her birthday.

Fields said he had purchased a pair of sweatpants for Rasmussen’s birthday after seeing a social media comment from one of Rasmussen’s constituents that stated the lawmaker could stop traffic if wearing a skirt.

Fields later apologized for the joke, saying on Facebook he personally called Rasmussen to apologize.

“I know I must earn back lost trust and am committed to doing that,” Fields said in the post.

In an interview Wednesday, Fields told the Juneau Empire he intends to deliver an apology on the floor of the House, but was currently in isolation due to close contacts with positive COVID-19 cases in the Capitol building.

In a text message, Rasmussen said she was not aware of the House vote beforehand and had planned on addressing the matter herself on the floor. Rasmussen was also quarantining because of close contacts.

“I look forward to hearing my colleagues’ thoughts on this issue,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen posted on her own Facebook page she accepted Fields’ apology, believing he genuinely regretted the remarks.

[Work continues even with new cases at the Capitol]

There was a chance for something positive to come of the situation, Rasmussen said, adding she hoped in the end, “we can find some progress in changing the culture of how women are often treated in our society.”

On the floor of the House Wednesday, Rep. Sara Vance, R-Homer, called for a Sense of the House vote, to condemn Fields for his comments.

Fields’ comments brought discredit upon the House of Representatives, Vance’s statement said, and that no member should be objectified.

“No such comments should ever again be uttered on the House floor by any member,” Vance said.

A Sense of the House vote would be a simple yes-no vote on a resolution containing Vance’s wording, and if passed would be a formal rebuke of Fields’ comment.

After a lengthy at ease, a motion was made to move the matter to the Community and Regional Affairs Committee. An objection led to another prolonged at ease during which the women members of the House, both parties, met in the hallway to discuss the matter.

Lawmakers recessed until late in the afternoon, at which point Vance withdrew the motion until Friday’s floor session as neither Fields or Rasmussen were present Wednesday.

Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com.

Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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