By Corinne Murdock |
On Wednesday, the House Government and Elections Committee narrowly approved a bill from State Representative Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) prohibiting government entities or schools from requiring minors to wear a mask without the express parental consent. All Democrats voted against HB2616, ensuring Republicans edged out a narrow 7-6 victory.
“I believe parents should make decisions for their children, not the government,” asserted Chaplik. “The states of Florida and Virginia, with bipartisan support, have passed this similar policy. I will continue to stand for freedom in Arizona for our constituents.”
HB2616 would’ve had greater reach than government and K-12 education: the original bill also prohibited mask mandates in private businesses for both adults and for minors, unless the business had express parental consent for the child to wear one. An approved amendment to HB2616 from State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) struck those additional provisions.
During the committee hearing, Chaplik explained that obtaining consent was up to the schools. When State Representative Sarah Liguori (D-Phoenix) expressed confusion as to whether schools would be required to obtain written consent for a child that showed up to school wearing a mask, Chaplik clarified that the child arriving to school in a mask was sufficient parental consent.
Liguori lambasted her colleagues for “buying into a political narrative.” She claimed that school districts with mask mandates have opt-out options for parents. That is incorrect. Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), for one, doesn’t mention the option to not wear a mask on school property.
“I hate to get caught up in the politics of the masks, which I believe was intentionally designed as an illusion but its even more of a fantasy to think we as legislators know more than the experts who have trained their entire lives in these fields and have studied the science and data on this day in and day out for the past two years,” said Liguori.
State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) challenged Liguori’s assertion that the experts were infallible and that the masks were a political issue. Hoffman reminded the committee of the CDC’s track record of changing their guidelines and goalposts constantly.
“In reality, the science is on the side that kids should not be forced to wear masks,” said Hoffman. “This is not a political argument, it’s an actual medical science argument. There’s countless medical studies to support this, and there are countless health professionals at the highest levels — especially medical doctors, not just public health professionals because there’s a very big difference between an actual medical doctor and a public health professional — they support this.”
On Tuesday, the American Federation for Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten pushed back in an interview with MSNBC against the beginning trend to drop mask mandates in schools. Weingarten admitted that masks are not only intolerable but an impediment to learning.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has also pushed back, arguing in an interview with Reuters this week that “now is not the moment” to drop mask mandates.