JUNEAU — An Alaska state lawmaker requested an excusal from the state Senate until mid-January, citing the challenges of traveling to Juneau from Anchorage after she was suspended from flying on Alaska Airlines earlier this year. Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold on Thursday requested the excusal from Saturday through Jan. 15. She said she was unaware of any other airline flying to the state capital during that period. Her request was accepted by the Republican-led Senate without any objections.
Juneau is accessible by air or water, including via the state-run ferry system. Lawmakers are in their third special session of the year, which is due to end Tuesday unless legislators finish earlier. It’s not clear if any other special sessions will be held before the next regular session begins in January.
Lawmakers can request excusals from the House or Senate floors for such things as personal or state business. The Legislature has yet to finalize a dividend amount to pay residents this year.
Delta Air Lines provides seasonal service to and from Juneau, which the company said began in late May this year and ends this weekend.
Alaska Airlines in April said in a statement that Reinbold was not allowed to fly with the carrier “for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy.” The company said the suspension was effective immediately “pending further review.”
On Thursday, airline spokesperson Tim Thompson said by email that Reinbold’s case “was reviewed earlier this year and she was notified of the outcome. Nothing has changed with her status from earlier this year.”
Reinbold in response to emailed questions said she had been in compliance and called the ban political.
She said the ferry schedule is limited and she doesn’t want to hold up legislative proceedings if she cannot reach Juneau “in a timely fashion.”
Following her suspension in April, Reinbold drove through part of Canada and took a ferry to reach the capital, a two-day trip.
If there is another special session, Reinbold, who is from Eagle River, said that session should be held in a community that is connected to Alaska’s main road system. Eagle River is part of the Municipality of Anchorage.
Reinbold has been critical of masking rules, including at the state Capitol.
“If accommodations can be made for efficient and safe transportation opportunities, I plan to be in Juneau for special session for significant votes,” she said.