Pennsylvania GOP-controlled legislature to challenge Wolf administrator’s school mask tenure

  • Sam dunklau

(Harrisburg) – The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives is considering a legislative challenge to the Wolf administration’s last term as a mask for schools. Meanwhile, a group of state senators are preparing a bill to amend the state constitution to prevent these terms.

Students, teachers, visitors and others entering schools and daycares had to start masquerading on Tuesday, per an order issued by Health Secretary Dr Alison Beam late last month .

Since then, House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman said the caucus has responded to calls from school administrators and parents who oppose it. Some of those administrators, he said, wanted to make masks optional in their districts before Beam returned his order.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has said that state health and education groups, including the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, support mandatory masks in schools.

Gottesman argued that the health secretary’s order went against the spirit of constitutional changes approved by voters in the spring, limiting the governor’s ability to take emergency action without legislative approval.

“No one wanted to have a unilateral government, whether it came from the executive or the legislature. What people voted for… was cooperative government, ”Gottesman said.

In response, the House returns to session earlier than expected to begin considering legislative challenges. While the information on the state legislature’s website was not changed to reflect this on Wednesday, a House calendar posted elsewhere on the website indicates September 15 is the next scheduled sitting day.

Gottesman did not share details on how House Republicans plan to challenge the masking order, but assured voters something would be done.

“We listened to them,” he said. “We come back early in the session to make sure those with these concerns know their representatives in Harrisburg are listening to them.”

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Center) said last week that “all options are on the table,” although Republicans’ legislative options are unclear.

Democratic House Leader Joanna McClinton (Philadelphia) said Wednesday she was open to a “meeting of minds” on mandatory masking in schools and daycares.

“But it depends on what they offer,” McClinton said. “We have to figure out how we can keep our children in school.”

The Philadelphia lawmaker said most of the parents she spoke to in her district supported the latest masking term and sought “consistency” on policy after more than a year and a half of back and forth legislative.

“They’re now at the point where if it’s a mask for their kids, they want to put it on. They don’t make it as big a problem as some politicians, ”she said.

A group of Republican state senators led by Senator Judy Ward (R-Blair) are also seeking to oppose the order in an attempt to limit the powers of the Secretary of Health in the state constitution. Lawmakers in either house could also try to make this change using the normal bill process.

But a constitutional change, which requires voter approval, would only take effect in at least a few years. Legislative changes that do not have at least some agreement from Democrats run the risk of being opposed by Wolf, leaving Republicans little chance of overriding as they lack a veto-proof majority in the ‘one or the other room.

All of this happens despite studies from the Centers for Disease Control which prove that masks reduce viral spread – especially when everyone is wearing one.

Nearly five times as many people now contract COVID-19 in Pennsylvania than a month ago, and children under the age of twelve still cannot get the vaccine.

Pennsylvania Republican Lawmakers and the Attack on the U.S. Capitol
As part of WITF’s commitment to stand up for the facts, and because the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol was an attempt to overthrow representative democracy in America, we mark elected officials’ ties to the insurrection. Learn more about this commitment.
Representative Benninghoff (R-Center) is among dozens of state lawmakers who have signed a letter asking Congress to oppose the 2020 Pennsylvania election result, despite no evidence that would call that result into question.
This supported the lie of electoral fraud, which led to the attack on the Capitol.

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