‘Let’s end this charade,’ Wasilla lawmaker says, removing his mask on the House floor

State Rep. Christopher Kurka of Wasilla left a House floor session on Monday morning after taking off his facemask. 

House Speaker Louise Stutes told Kurka she preferred he leave. 

In remarks the Wasilla Republican gave before he took off his mask, he described legislative leaders’ enforcement of COVID-19 safety rules as a “thinly veiled power play.” He said that leaders have not always followed these rules. He also noted that the Senate allows members to stand and take off their masks when they’re speaking, in contradiction of the rules. 

“Let’s end this charade,” Kurka said. “COVID-19 is here to stay. No measures we take are going to stop it, no matter how repressive a course, or unconstitutional.”

Kurka also expressed doubt that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s support for wearing masks is based on science. 

RELATED: Two Alaska Senate staff members test positive for COVID-19

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Chris Tuck spoke in favor of the COVID-19 safety rules, comparing them to airlines’ requirement that passengers wear seat belts during takeoff. 

And Juneau Democratic Rep. Sara Hannan said Kurka’s speech seemed to impugn the motives of other legislators, in violation of legislative rules. 

Kurka became the second Alaska legislator who intentionally violated the rules requiring masks during floor sessions. 

Sen. Lora Reinbold, an Eagle River Republican, has worn a clear face shield with gaps around the edges that didn’t comply with legislative rules. On Wednesday, Senate leaders said she would be prohibited from most parts of the Capitol until she complied with COVID-19 safety rules.

On Monday, Reinbold wore a clear face shield with padding around the face that the Senate majority press office described as complying with the rules. In response, she was allowed to sit at her desk on the floor during the session since leaders started enforcing the rules. 

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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