Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Pennsylvania Republicans Try to Block School Mask Orders

Debate over requiring Pennsylvania schoolchildren to wear masks in schools and childcare centers continued on Tuesday with a letter from the House Health Committee in Harrisburg challenging Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam’s authority to order masks in schools .

In late August, Democrat Governor Tom Wolf asked the General Assembly to return to Harrisburg and pass a mandate requiring all schools and childcare centers to require children to wear masks to prevent transmission of COVID-19. The Republican-led General Assembly leadership refused.

Within days, Beam issued an order requiring the wearing of masks inside K-12 school buildings, early education programs and childcare providers.

“It is my firm belief that the secretary does not have the authority to announce this order because it is being interpreted as law,” Health Committee Majority Chair Cathy Rapp told a committee meeting on Tuesday. “This would be no different than the Agriculture Secretary sending an order that all children in a school district should drink half a pint of milk for lunch every day. We will look at it and say it is not a law; They don’t need to obey him, because he doesn’t have authority. It is the same with the health secretary. We are not under a declared emergency. In our opinion, he does not have the authority to send this order and get people to comply with this order.”

Rep., a Republican, said that only the General Assembly could legislate. Governors simply sign or refuse to sign laws. But the cabinet secretary can neither write nor sign the law. Previous health department masking orders were issued under an emergency declaration, but the emergency is no longer in effect.

In a divided vote, the committee agreed to send a letter to the Commonwealth Joint Committee on Documents, asking it to determine whether Beam’s order should be promulgated as a regulation.

Democrat Dan Frankel, the health committee minority chairman, called the letter an exercise in political theater and said minority members would not support sending the letter. Sitting a few inches away from Rapp, who was not wearing a mask, Frankel removed his mask to speak.

“While the review process is an important check on the executive branch as a whole, we feel it is not well suited to the rapidly growing threat of a highly contagious virus such as COVID-19,” Frankel said. “There is no such thing as individualized learning without mitigation policies. We either allow outbreaks that force schools to close and children to quarantine, or we allow science-based policies.” By continuing to act responsibly that protects our children in the classroom.”

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Rapp reminded the committee members that there is nothing stopping anyone from wearing a mask.

“The issue here is the force of an order that we don’t consider to be the law,” Rapp said. “What will stop any other secretary from issuing orders without the rule of law? without regulation? I do not believe it is constitutional. “

Frankel took off his mask again to speak.

“I am amazed that we have come to the point and time where public health has become a partisan, political issue,” Frankel said. “We need to go back to the point and time where we argue about things, we discuss things, we have disagreements, but we put public health on a different platform. It should not be politicised. This is what is happening here.”

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The letter was handed over on Tuesday to the Commonwealth Joint Committee on Documents, which went to work. Committee chairman Vince Deliberto told The Epoch Times that a letter has been sent to the health department, which must respond by October 4, and each side will then have a week to submit a legal argument to the committee. After that, the hearing will take place in the week of October 18.

If the Commonwealth Joint Committee on Documents finds that the Health Department’s mask order should be a regulation that requires promulgation, the department has 180 days to complete the lengthy announcement (approval) process , or stops enforcing the command. If the Committee feels that the order need not be promulgated, the order stands.

Whichever party loses, the House Health Committee or the Department of Health can appeal the decision to the Commonwealth Court.

In the meantime, the mask order is deemed to be in effect, DeLiberato said.

Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering the most interesting and sometimes elusive news from Pennsylvania politics, the courts and the Commonwealth. Send him your story ideas:

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

Pennsylvania Republicans Try to Block School Mask Orders
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