State, not local government, should oversee mask mandates, they say
Also: “We could be just the ultimate super-spreader event in Vermont”
By Guy Page
A Senate committee discussing the draft bill today for Monday’s special session debated whether to give municipalities the power to mandate masks, or whether to empower the State to mandate masks in high-transmission hot spots.
The bill as proposed by the Scott administration limits the mask mandate to municipalities only. Gov. Phil Scott has said he will veto anything else. However, some legislators want broader masking powers for the State.
“This has been an extremely frustrating proposal,” Sen. Anthony Pollina (P-Washington) told other members of Senate Government Operations Committee. “We’re told we can’t look at options. My hope is that we should be doing what is for the greatest positive impact for Vermonters with the minimum of conflict, and I think there are other ways to do that.”
Chair Jeannette White (D-Windham) agrees the Legislature could do better but still supports the bill. “I agree with this bill. I think it is important to give towns the options. Would I rather go forward with a statewide [program]? Yes.”
Pollina’s concern is shared by some members of the Vermont House – including Rep. Dr. George Till (D-Jericho/Underhill), who said on WDEV Common Sense Radio Wednesday that a statewide effort targeting hot spots would be more effective and less locally controversial.
Till also questions the medical wisdom of holding an in-person meeting of the Legislature. “The way our adjournment declaration was written, the only option is to be in person. It’s a terrible idea to get everybody together in the State House,” Till said. “We could be just the ultimate super-spreader event in Vermont. We have a lot of us who are well over 65 in there, from every corner of the state. I don’t think it’s a very good idea. But I don’t think, if we have a session, that there’s an option, because of the way the Delta wave caught us by surprise.”
The municipal mask mandate has been requested by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and legislative leaders in response to the unprecedented high case numbers, despite Vermont’s #1 in the nation vaccination rate.
Senate Gov. Ops adjourned at about 12:20 PM today for an hour-long lunch break. More discussion will follow this afternoon.
In a letter to Sen. White posted today on the committee website, citizen Bill Moore of Johnson said the committee has yet to observe proper procedures for taking up and voting on a bill. “This Committee has no official possession of 21-1038 and the designation of Committee as possessing the Bill should trigger another properly noticed Agenda of testimony and the official submittal of written testimony. In essence, today’s discussion is not official, legal possession and a Committee vote should be scheduled before action is taken,” Moore said.