Lawmakers react to upcoming special session to possibly amend mask mandate ban

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced Thursday he wants lawmakers to take a look at the state’s mask mandate ban, so he called a special session for next week. Getting legislative support to make changes will be an uphill battle, according to legislators and Hutchinson himself.

“This is necessary for providing local school boards the ability to protect those most vulnerable,” Hutchinson said.

Act 1002 bans mask mandates in state and local governments. Hutchinson said he wants the law to be amended, “to give school boards, local decisionmakers the authority to make the best decisions for public health.”

State Sen. Trent Garner (R) sponsored the bill.

“It’s unfortunate the governor has chosen big-government mandates over the choices the parents of Arkansas could make,” Garner said.

Garner said he will soon file other bills as a response to this call for a special session, including expanding school choice and banning critical race theory in K-12 schools.

“[Critical race theory] is just as bad for mental health as COVID-19 is for physical health,” Garner said.

State Sen. Greg Leding (D) said he hopes the special session stays focused.

“We don’t need to go down there and open things up to talking about other issues,” Leding said. “This is about protecting kids with school starting in less than two weeks.”

Garner and Leding said they think it’ll be improbable that the legislature makes any changes to the law, and Hutchinson agreed.

“It’s going to be a heavy lift to get passage of this,” Hutchinson said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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