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Subcommittee marks school mask requirement deficient, but mandate will stay in place

Frankfort.jfif
Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 17, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — A group of Kentucky lawmakers decided to mark a recent school mask mandate as deficient on Tuesday. However, Governor Andy Beshear quickly disagreed and allowed the mandate to stay.

The mandate in question was the Kentucky Department of Education's emergency masking regulation, which was passed unanimously by the Kentucky Board of Education last Thursday.

The Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee took up the regulation at its Tuesday meeting. However, the subcommittee's co-chair pointed out that lawmakers can't do much about it for now.

"This committee cannot strike down a regulation," said Sen. Stephen West, co-chair of the subcommittee. "We do not have that power."

However, that did not stop people from testifying for and against the mandate.

"I implore you to uphold the mask mandate in our schools," said Pragya Upreti, a Lafayette High School senior and a member of the Kentucky Student Voice Team. "Prioritizing the health and safety of young people should not be rooted in politics."

"Today, I urge each of you to be who you needed to be as a child and hold the line for our children and the future of Kentucky," said Dawne Perkins, founder of the group "Let Them Play" as she asked lawmakers to get rid of the mandate.

Parents against the mask mandate say they want the decision to mask their children to be left up to them.

"I will not put a mask on my child, and I believe I should have the choice to put a mask on my child. I don't co-parent with the government," said Kim Harnois. "I parent my children."

However, parents in favor of the mask mandate reminded lawmakers that not all kids are eligible to be vaccinated yet. So, they urged lawmakers to keep the mandate in place.

"I want to vaccinate these kids. I want the choice to vaccinate my kids before the mask mandate is done away with," said Ray Arnold.

Many against the mask mandate brought up their liberties as their reason against the regulation.

"Just as much as I should have the choice to wear a mask, another individual has the same choice to wear the mask. That is America. That is Kentucky," said Christopher Henning, who testified against the mandate. "As a veteran of this nation, I find it shameful - just shameful - that we cannot follow our founding documents."

But Governor Andy Beshear later provided a rebuttal to that argument, saying individual liberties have limits.

"You have the freedom of speech, but you can't run into a crowded movie theater and yell 'fire.' Your individual liberty ends when it harms other people," explained Beshear. "Your individual liberty to swing your fist ends when it impacts somebody else's face. That's called assault."

Despite the heated testimony at Tuesday's hearing, the subcommittee could not strike down the regulation. What it could do is find the masking regulation "deficient," and on a party-line 5-2 vote, that's what it did.

However, not much came of that because state law requires the deficient regulation to be sent to the governor for review. Beshear quickly made it clear he disagrees with lawmakers.

"This is what happens when politics runs over public health or common sense," he said.

The governor decided the Kentucky Department of Education's mask mandate can stay.

However, lawmakers will have the ability to act when they return to session.

"What the committee does do by finding a reg deficient is it marks the reg for the legislature," said Sen. West.

The legislature returns in January 2022.