Arkansas Democrats call for a new mask policy in Senate

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Democratic Senator Stephanie Flowers is pushing more additional mask mandates in the Arkansas State Capitol.

These new rules would require senators to wear a mask at all times or risk losing their per diem payments.

Senator Greg Leding says, “the Senate put in place a rule that would require senators to wear masks on the floor but also in the semi-private areas where we tend to gather to talk to do everything we can to keep from infecting each other”

This is something Republican Senator Bob Ballinger says is excessive, “there are functional problems with that and on top of that, it is unnecessary. If you make a rule that people need to wear their mask in a meeting people are going to be wearing a mask.”

In the past month, 12 Arkansas lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19. This is the second-largest recorded outbreak in any state legislature.

The current mask mandate does not require lawmakers to wear a mask while talking into a microphone, standing 6 feet away from others, or while eating or drinking.

Ballinger doesn’t see this as a problem due to the precautions already being taken

“Clearly we are taking care of it we are handling it ourselves especially if we are sitting down and divided by plexiglass,” Ballinger says.

“It’s important to step up, put teeth into what we say all Arkansans need to be doing. We have a rule in place right now requiring masks,” says Leding, “I think this is about leading by example and showing Arkansas this is something that needs to be taken seriously.”

The rule for the senate was proposed on Friday, November 26th and if it were to go into effect it wouldn’t be until the next session which starts Monday, January 11th.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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