HARRISBURG (AP) – A bill that would allow parents in Pennsylvania to exempt their children from wearing masks at school on Tuesday authorized a state Senate committee as Republican lawmakers began to keep their pledge to countering the governor’s mask statewide. mandate.
The legislation would leave the final decision on masking in school to parents and guardians, allowing them to override any mandate to cover the face imposed by the state health ministry, local health department or council. school.
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The Senate Education Committee approved the bill in a party line vote. It requires passage by the entire Senate and House before going to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, whose office has said it opposes the bill.
GOP leaders had promised to put in place a legislative response to Wolf’s statewide mask mandate for schools, which requires students, staff and visitors to K-12 schools and daycares to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Wolf said a statewide universal order was needed after most school districts in Pennsylvania failed to impose their own mask mandates and the delta variant of the coronavirus caused an increase in cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and deaths.
Some school boards and anti-mask parents and students have vehemently opposed the order, saying without scientific evidence that masks inhibit breathing and cause other problems and that this should remain a parental decision. There is strong evidence that hiding children in schools can reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
“My office has been inundated with calls and emails from parents so unhappy with the Wolf administration’s cover-up mandates and our own school districts, “? The bill’s co-sponsor, State Senator Judy Ward, R-Blair, said at an education committee meeting.
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The original legislation only applied to mask warrants imposed by state and local health authorities, but was expanded on Tuesday to include masking orders from a school board. The bill would also prohibit schools from removing unmasked students from other students or excluding them from any school-sponsored activity.
Wolf’s office blasted the effort.
“Supporters of the bill” the efforts would better serve their constituents and the Commonwealth as a whole by focusing on increasing immunization rates in their legislative constituencies instead of working on this unnecessary legislation, ”said Wolf spokesman Lyndsay Kensinger. “We need Republicans to stop wasting their time undermining public health and instead encourage people to get vaccinated. “
The governor’s office on Monday released data showing Republicans represent nearly all of Pennsylvania’s least-vaccinated legislative districts.
At State House, meanwhile, GOP leaders on Tuesday backed an effort to give money for tuition fees to parents who disagree with a COVID-19 mitigation measure. school district. But the legislation did not get the votes required to pass it, with nearly 20 Republicans defecting amid questions about the cost of the program and whether the grants were taxable for federal purposes.
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