Alaska legislators apologize after breaking COVID rules by bringing friends for ping-pong, basketball at Capitol gym

Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, apologizes for allowing members of the public barred from the Capitol complex due to pandemic safety rules to enter the Terry Miller Legislative Legislative Office Building for a social gathering last week. She spoke during a House floor session on Wednesday in the Capitol. (Gavel Alaska screen capture)

Members of the public who are barred from the state Capitol complex due to pandemic safety rules attended a social gathering with legislators in a complex building last week. 

The gathering was in the gymnasium in the Terry Miller Legislative Office Building, which is across Fifth Street from the Capitol. 

Anchorage Rep. Sara Rasmussen told the Alaska House of Representatives that it was a mistake during the floor session on Wednesday.

“I apologize to all of you for the lack of judgment that was exercised when several of us entered the gym and allowed [in] a few people who are members of the public and do not have keycard access to the facility,” she said.

Rasmussen said the gathering included playing ping-pong and shooting basketballs. She is a Republican who is not a member of either House caucus.

After the gathering, the head of the office that oversees the Capitol — the Legislative Affairs Agency — sent an email to all legislators and legislative aides reminding them no one is allowed into legislative buildings who hasn’t been tested and screened for COVID-19.

Anchorage Rep. Kelly Merrick echoed Rasmussen’s apology. She is a Republican who caucuses with the mostly Democratic majority.

“Last week we made a poor choice and pledge not to repeat that mistake,” she said. “We also immediately have apologized to the Legislative Affairs Agency and we ask forgiveness from this body and from Alaskans.”

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Zack Fields also attended the gathering. He did not address it during the floor session.

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