Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Counting the votes: The House committee that heard proposals to overturn a ban on school mask mandates

Politics

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – During a special session this week, two proposals could have overturned the state’s ban on school mask mandates but the bills were voted down by a committee made up of 20 state representatives.

The bills, HB1003 and HB 1004, were presented to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Thursday during a special session called by Governor Asa Hutchinson.

The republican governor called the special session after a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Arkansas, including a spike in childhood and teen cases.

Under the state’s current law, which passed earlier this year, state and local governments, including school boards are prohibited from requiring people to wear masks.

Hutchinson said the state legislature should give school districts control over mask mandates because only students 12 and above are eligible for the vaccine, leaving many students unprotected.

“I am asking lawmakers to simply allow public school boards and open-enrollment charter schools to make their own decision to implement masking protocols to protect children younger than 12 in a school building, school bus, or other educational settings where several students are in close proximity,” Hutchinson said.

Both bills were voted down in the House committee Thursday.

A group of 20 State of Representatives represent the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.


Several questions were sent Friday, August 6 around noon to lawmakers using their supplied e-mail address on the Arkansas House of Representatives website. Two of the questions asked:

  1.  How did you vote in the House committee meeting on HB 1003 and HB 1004?
  2.  Was the Special Session a valuable use of taxpayer dollars and money? Why or why not?

Editor’s note: In addition to our e-mail, we have attempted to reach each one by phone. This article will be updated as additional responses come in.


REP. FRED ALLEN (D) – District 30

Waiting on a response.


REP. MARY BENTLEY (R) – District 73

Waiting on a response.


REP. JUSTIN BOYD (R) – District 77

Waiting on a response.


REP. JOE CLOUD (R) – District 71

Waiting on a response.


REP. BRUCE COLEMAN (R) – District 81

  • How did you vote in the House committee on HB 1003 and HB 1004?
    • Voted no.
  • Was the Special Session a valuable use of taxpayer dollars and money? Why or why not?
    • It was a valuable use from the standpoint of HB 1001. It was necessary to take the time to do it.

REP. MARSH DAVIS (R) – District 61

Waiting on a response.


REP. JIM DOTSON (R) – District 93

Waiting on a response.


REP. JON S. EUBANKS (R) – District 74

Waiting on a response.


REP. DEBORAH FERGUSON (D) – District 51

Waiting on a response.


REP. JUSTIN GONZALES (R) – District 19

Waiting on a response.


REP. MICHELLE GRAY (R) – District 62

“I was not in attendance for special session and therefore was not in committee when these bills were heard.

Had I been there, I would have voted against the bills. My personal opinion is that the Delta variant is more dangerous for children than the original strain and I believe that masks could provide some protection. With the current CDC guidance, mask wearing would allow kids to remain in school even with exposure. This is an overlooked positive aspect of mask wearing at school. However, the majority of my constituents (at least those who reached out to me) were against these bills and they are who I represent; therefore, I would have voted with them without regard to my personal opinions.

We were able to pass the PUA bill, HB1001, so I don’t feel special session was a waste.”


REP. JACK LADYMAN (R) – District 59

I voted against HB 1003 & HB 1004. Yes, it was valuable. We passed the bill [federal pandemic unemployment assistance] which stopped the $300 payment. Our businesses need workers.”


REP. STEPHEN MAGIE (D) – District 72

“I was unable to attend the committee meeting. I would have voted a strong Yes to both bills.

My perspective is most certainly driven from my professional career as a Medical Doctor. The true science should point us to proven methods such as masking, distancing and vaccinations as the means to bring under control this horrible disease.  I understand people when they talk about personal medical freedom, no mask or no vaccinations. But with personal freedom comes responsibility to others.

I don’t think the session was a waste of time or money. The issue needed to be debated. I’m so far not pleased with the results. But it is a conversation that needed to be started in a public forum. And maybe it will help change minds and help all of us to work together to combat COVID.


REP. JOSH MILLER (R) – District 66

Waiting on a response.


REP. JOHN PAYTON (R) – District 64

“I voted no in committee on both. I would have voted no on the floor. The special session was not very productive because the language in the “call” was so narrowly tailored that it was either “take it or leave it” regarding the Governor’s proposals. Other ideas were not given debate.”


REP. CLINT PENZO (R) – District 88

While attempting to reach Rep. Penzo, he refused to reveal how he voted in the committee session and then the phone disconnected.


REP. MARK PERRY (D) – District 42

Waiting on a response.


REP. AARON PILKINGTON (R) – District 69

Waiting on a response.


REP. JEFF WARDLAW (R) – District 8

  1. How did you vote in the House committee on HB 1003 and HB 1004?
    1. Was not available to attend the committee meeting.
  2. Was the Special Session a valuable use of taxpayer dollars and money? Why or why not?
    1. No it was not. The Governor called it without a consensus of the legislature. Valuable things were accomplished like passing the federal pandemic unemployment assistance bill.

REP. CARLTON WING (R) – District 38

Waiting on a response.


The committee:

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