The Alaska State Senate has suspended a lawmaker for four months after she was barred from flying to the state capital on the state’s only airline for failing to properly wear her mask.
Lora Reinbold, a Republican from an Anchorage suburb, was filmed arguing with Alaska Airlines employees in April. In the video, she wrote down the names of the employees and filmed them as they asked her to cover her nose.
She informed her colleagues on Thursday that she will be unable to appear in person for floor votes between September 11 and January 15 ‘because there is no airline other than Alaska Airlines that flies into Juneau during that period that I am aware of.’ Reinbold represents the Anchorage suburb of Eagle River, which is 833 miles from Juneau’s capital.
Her request was granted without opposition by the Republican-led chamber.
Days after the airport incident in April, Reinbold circumvented the airline ban by driving and ferrying 500 miles to the state capital.
She took to Facebook on Thursday to argue that airline mask regulations could ‘undermine our representative republic.’
‘I requested to be excused because Delta’s last flight out is on September 11th.’ Sens. Steadman and Von Imhoff have requested longer excuses. To be excused does not mean you will not be present; it simply means that the legislative process cannot be hampered if you are not present.’ Since the start of the pandemic, the Federal Aviation Administration has seen a significant increase in in-flight disturbances, owing largely to passengers who refuse to follow COVID-19 protocol.
So far this year, the agency has launched 752 investigations, up from 146 in all of 2019.
President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that the Transportation Security Administration would double fines for passengers who refuse to wear masks to $500. The second offense would result in a $3,000 fine.
Reinbold, 57, is from Eagle River, an Anchorage suburb. She has served in the Alaska legislature since 2013, when she was elected to the State House of Representatives. In an April video, airline personnel tell Reinbold that her mask must cover her nose and mouth. Reinbold appears to be filming the staff in a second video.
She insisted that she had been ‘respectful’ of the airline’s policy, and she darkly implied that the airline ban was part of a plot to keep her from voting against the disaster bill.
She referred to Alaska Airlines employees as “mask bullies” last year after being asked by flight attendants to wear a mask aboard a flight, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Following the incident, she is said to have sent a cake to some flight attendants with the inscription, ‘I’m sorry if I offended you.’ Alaska Airlines, which has barred over 500 people from flying with them, says Reinbold is barred from flying with them “while the federal mask policy is in effect.”
‘Federal law requires all guests to wear a mask over their nose and mouth at all times during travel, including during flight, boarding and deplaning, and traveling through an airport,’ the airline said in a statement.
Reinbold completed a 40-hour journey by car and ferry to the state capitol in April after being barred from flying with Alaska Airlines.
She arrived in time to vote against a key bill that would have extended Alaska’s pandemic state of emergency. Reinbold has been vocal in her opposition to mask mandates and has raised concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
In a letter sent in February, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, accused Reinbold of spreading misinformation.