The Alaska House of Representatives held a technical floor session Wednesday after “a large portion” of members were exposed to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, according to a statement from the speaker’s office.
House Majority Coalition spokesperson Joe Plesha said Tuesday roughly half the members of the House were in close contact with a positive case.
“It is still being determined who has to quarantine based on their vaccination status,” Plesha said in a text message.
House committee meetings were still held and only the House Judiciary Committee was canceled.
In an email, Konrad Jackson, staff to Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said he was unaware of any Senators isolating due to close contact. The Senate held its scheduled floor meeting Wednesday and all 20 members were present.
The House was set to debate whether to take action against Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, over his membership in the Oath Keepers, a right-wing paramilitary organization whose leaders have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said a member of the House had tested positive and contract tracing was being conducted.
“Right now our concern is keeping our members safe,” Edgmon said.
A floor session would be scheduled, “ once we know it’s safe,” Edgmon said.
Edgmon said the cancellation was not due to the majority lacking the 21 votes necessary to take action against Eastman. The situation concerning Eastman was “serious,” Edgmon said, and the House Majority Coalition was taking a deliberate approach to the matter.
Edgmon said at least one House member had tested positive but declined to name the person, citing privacy rules. House leadership decided to err on the side of caution, Edgmon said, but it could be expected there would be a floor session on Friday.
Edgmon said it was likely more members would test positive throughout the session but wasn’t concerned about work being stalled as members can still attend committee meetings remotely. Floor sessions must still be held in person, and Edgmon said in addition to the security concerns about holding floor sessions remotely, he didn’t believe there were the two-thirds votes in the body necessary to approve that move.
Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, said on Facebook Monday she tested positive for COVID-19 while at home in Anchorage. Rasmussen has been attending meetings remotely.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.