Reinbold, Kennedy clash over voting history

Friday, August 12, 2016 - 12:08

A difference of opinion between the two candidates in Eagle River’s District 14 House race regarding how to interpret the number of voting absences Rep. Lora Reinbold has incurred in her past four years of legislative service is dominating the race between Reinbold and challenger Crystal Kennedy as voters head in to the final weekend before the Aug. 16 primary election.  

Reinbold claims a nearly 95 percent voting rate, while Kennedy asserts Reinbold has missed 71 votes in her past four years as a legislator.

Both campaigns have upped their respective effort to reach voters this past week with multiple post cards being mailed to voters and the Kennedy camp released a robo call campaign featuring endorsements from Sen. Anna MacKinnon and Rep. Dan Saddler. On Wednesday, former state Sen. Fred Dyson also endorsed Kennedy.

Reinbold backs her claim with a study conducted by KTUU, an Anchorage-based television station, that indicates Reinbold missed eight floor sessions resulting in an attendance rate of 94.3 percent.

The KTUU story published on the station’s website on June 21, 2016, by reporter Austin Baird is based on the Legislature’s journal – which is the official record of attendance – from the 29th Legislative session which began its work in 2015. Attendance records contained in the official journal, according to KTUU, include, “roll call, hearings to set calendars, award citations, set committee schedules, and sometimes vote on legislation.” Not included in the journal attendance record, according to KTUU, are committee hearings, constituent meetings and individual meetings between lawmakers and their colleagues.”

In an email statement by Reinbold released from her volunteer communications representative Ric Smith of Eagle River, Reinbold stated, “In the four years I have served in the Legislature, I stand proudly behind an impressive 95 percent average voting record.”

The Kennedy campaign disputes Reinbold’s claim.

Kennedy said the 95 percent rate reflects when Reinbold was on hand during the morning roll call but does not include the times she did or did not vote on specific bills, amendments or motions.

Kennedy points to records from the Anchorage-based Legislative Information Office that detail vote by vote which legislators were at their seat to cast a vote.

“There are several key votes that Lora missed,” Kennedy said. “She was not there to represent the voters of Eagle River on these issues.”

According to Kennedy, some of those “key votes” included final passage votes in the 2014 extended session regarding education funding, the Knik Arm Crossing and the capital projects budget bill.

Records obtained by The Star from the LIO indicate the number of votes Reinbold was marked “absent” from voting as the following: 2013, nine; 2014, 37; 2015, 17; and 2016, eight.

Of those times marked “absent,” the following are the number of votes that were final passage votes on the topic at hand: 2013, eight; 2014, 24; 2015, five; and 2016, five.

Among the legislation for final passage votes the LIO records indicate Reinbold as “absent” for are the 2013 development project financing by the Alaska Development and Export Authority, the 2014 third reading for the final passage of Sale of Alcohol Near Schools and Churches, the Alaska Tourism Board and second reading on a bill to keep in-state oil refiners operational,  the 2015 Workers Compensation Medical Fees and the 2016 Sale of Dextromethorphen and the Capital Improvements and Appropriations.

In a statement from Smith, Reinbold defended her 2014 absences as resulting from her being the prime sponsor of “key regulatory reform” legislation which kept her from other legislative issues.

“In 2014, with almost unanimous consent in both the House and the Senate, as the prime sponsor of the Regulatory Impact Transparency Act, HB 140 was enacted into law,” Reinbold stated via Smith’s email.

Kennedy has no legislative voting record to compare.

However, an inspection of the voting record of Reinbold’s contemporaries – MacKinnon, Saddler and retiring Sen. Bill Stoltze – shows fewer absences.

According to the KTUU report, the following percentages and days absent were recorded by the Legislature’s journal: MacKinnon, 95.5 and six; Saddler, 99.3 and one; and Stoltze, 99 and two.

“As a Legislator, I believe it is imperative that I show up to vote,” Saddler told The Star.

Saddler’s voting record, according to the LIO, has the following number of absences: 2013, three; 2014, two; 2015, zero; and 2015, four.

There are four ways a legislator can vote: Yea, Nay, Excused or Absent. Excused means they have received prior permission from leadership to not be present for voting. Absent means the legislator was present at the morning roll call, but was not present at his or her desk to vote when a specific measure was brought forward.

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