On Aug. 30, amid the lengthy debate over PFD payments, oil tax credits and various spending items, an attempt was made by some Alaska lawmakers to protect residents who decline to take the experimental COVID shots. Enough Republican members of the Alaska State House, however, joined Democrats to successfully kill this attempt.
Wasilla Representatives David Eastman and Christopher Kurka, along with Rep. George Rauscher (Palmer) offered an amendment to a budget bill that deals with the PFD and other spending items. The amendment stated that it is the Legislature’s intent that financial appropriations only be disbursed to “entities that establish a policy stating that an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status is considered confidential information and that the entity will not solicit, collect, or maintain that information.”
The amendment initially passed 21-19, but Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage) later ask the House to rescind this action and allow members to revote on the amendment. Spohnholz successfully convinced enough Republicans to side with her, and the amendment was rescinded on a 25-15 vote with seven Republicans voting to rescind and revote. These Republicans were DeLena Johnson (Palmer), Bart LeBon (Fairbanks), Kelly Merrick (Eagle River), David Nelson (Anchorage), Sara Rasmussen (Anchorage), Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) and Steve Thompson (Fairbanks).
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At that point legislators voted again on whether the amendment should be adopted. This second vote resulted in it being narrowly defeated – 21-19 – with Rep. Sarah Rasmussen (R-Anchorage) and Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) switching their original yea votes to nays.
While Republican lawmakers Johnson, Lebon, Nelson and Thompson ultimately voted in favor of keeping the amendment in place, they also first voted to rescind the amendment and let their colleagues revote. This ultimately allowed Rasmussen and Tuck to flip their votes and kill the amendment.
The notion of withholding public funds from groups that mandate COVID vaccines or passports is playing out across the nation. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, 20 states have now banned vaccine passports, five states have banned COVID vaccine mandates, seven states prohibit mandates for state workers, and three states won’t allow private employers to force employees to take a COVID shot.
Contacts for Republican House members who voted against amendment to protect Alaskans who decline COVID jab
- Rep. Kelly Merrick: (907) 465-3777 or Representative.Kelly.Merrick@akleg.gov
- Rep. Sara Rasmussen: (907) 465-3892 or Representative.Sara.Rasmussen@akleg.gov
- Rep. Louise Stutes: (907) 465-2487 or Representative.Louise.Stutes@akleg.gov