State Watch

Arkansas governor says he regrets signing ban on mask mandates

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) says he regrets signing a ban on mask mandates in schools as he asks the state legislature to reverse the decision. 

“Well, I signed it at the time because our cases were at a very low point. I knew it’d be overridden by the legislature if I didn’t sign it … I already eliminated our statewide mask mandate,” Hutchinson said in a press conference on Tuesday.

“I signed it for those reasons that our cases were at a low point. Everything has changed now. And yes, in hindsight I wish that had not become law,” he added.

The governor last week began calling for the state legislature to overturn the part of the law that says schools can’t decide if they want a mask mandate.

He says he still supports a statewide ban on a mask mandate because adults have the option of becoming vaccinated but children do not.

“Local school districts are all different across the state and they have different opinions on this and they reflect different wishes of parents and their constituents,” Hutchinson said. “Local school districts should make the call and they should have more options to make sure that their school is a safe environment during a very challenging time for education.”

The governor is calling the Republican-led state legislature back into session to address the issue, although lawmakers have said it will be difficult to lift the ban.

“My issue is it’s real close that we would even have the majority right now,” state Senate President Jimmy Hickey (R) said.

Both chambers in the legislature would need a two-thirds vote to lift the ban before school starts, while a simple majority means the ban wouldn’t be lifted for 90 days. 

Hutchinson’s call comes as the state is flooded with coronavirus cases and is dealing with low vaccination rates.

Tags Arkansas Asa Hutchinson Coronavirus COVID-19 mask mandate Masks in schools Vaccine hesitancy

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