Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, holds a press in front of the doors to the Senate chambers on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Reinbold called the conference to respond to a letter from Gov. Mike Dunleavy saying he would no longer participate with her as chair of the Senate Judicairy Committee. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, holds a press in front of the doors to the Senate chambers on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Reinbold called the conference to respond to a letter from Gov. Mike Dunleavy saying he would no longer participate with her as chair of the Senate Judicairy Committee. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

State senator demands governor retract critical letter

Eagle River senator says Dunleavy is attacking her rights

A state senator is charging up her rhetoric in a dispute with Gov. Mike Dunleavy over a letter he sent last month.

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, said the governor’s letter, which stated Reinbold was spreading disinformation, was an unprecedented assault on the separation of powers and amounted to an accusation of “seditious libel.”

Reinbold is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a frequent critic of mitigation measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 as well as Dunleavy’s multiple extensions of the state’s emergency disaster declaration.

“Our education system is in crisis, healthcare system enabling medical tyranny, massive government growth & dependence when our revenues are smaller,” Reinbold said in a Jan. 4 social media post. “Gov D continues to declare illegal disasters based on likely fraudulent numbers to push an agenda.”

Seriously there is some truth to this cartoon. Add that the disaster declarations can cause a bigger disaster-courtesy…

Posted by Senator Lora Reinbold on Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The state’s disaster declaration ended in mid-February.

In a Feb. 19 letter, Dunleavy said he would no longer respond to or participate in hearings led by Reinbold, saying she had used the position to misrepresent the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conflict escalated Thursday when Reinbold delivered a charged statement at a news conference held in the hallway before the Senate chambers. Reinbold said the governor’s letter had in effect charged her with “seditious libel,” and was using the power of the executive to attack the Legislative branch.

The governor’s letter was, according to Reinbold, “an attempt to intimidate those who question him and his administration and to silence those with opposing views.” She called the letter unbecoming of a governor and said it had crossed the bounds of civility.

Reinbold has been a vocal advocate of fully opening the state and applying COVID-19 health mitigation rules such as masking only to vulnerable populations such as the elderly and people with health conditions. In a meeting of the Judiciary Committee, Reinbold chastised Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum for the state’s response to the pandemic.

[Dunleavy says Reinbold misrepresents virus response]

The governor said in his letter Reinbold had issued superfluous information requests from the administration which were time-consuming and distracting government workers from their regular duties.

Reinbold sent an eight-page letter to the governor, written she said, with the assistance of her own personal constitutional attorney who is licensed in California, England, Wales and “as to state of Alaska Matters, he is associated with Alaska counsel.”

Reinbold’s letter to the governor demands a retraction of the letter and an apology. The letter references to the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and the writings of 19th Century judge Thomas M. Cooley. Intentionally placed on the desk in the hallway were copies of Mason’s “Manual of Legislative Procedure,” a volume of Alaska statutes and a copy of “The Founder’s Bible” by David Barton.

In an email, Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the governor would not be retracting the letter.

As chair, Reinbold has the ability to hold any bills that come through her committee. Reinbold said Thursday she had invited the governor’s administration to discuss his bills but received no response.

In a statement, Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said he hoped the two could resolve their dispute so the Senate could focus on the issues of the state.

“At this point, we see this as an issue between two adults,” he said. “We’re all grown-ups here and the public expects us to be professional and get our work done on time.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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