State Watch

Virginia Senate Democrats join Republicans in passing amendment barring school mask mandates

Virginia Senate Democrats joined Republicans on Tuesday in passing an amendment that would give parents the right to choose whether their children will wear masks at school, The Washington Post reports.

Ten of the 21 Democrats in the state Senate voted for the amendment, which was initially brought forward by Virginia Sen. Chap Petersen (D).

The vote follows criticism from Democrats over Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order, signed on his first day in office, that made masks optional in schools.

Petersen said he agrees with Youngkin’s conclusion that masks should be optional in schools but that the decision should be made by the legislature rather than by executive order.

“We needed to solve this ourselves. And we will,” said Peterson to the Post. “I don’t like executive orders. … We needed to act to end the mask wars.”

The amendment was added to a bill that would require schools to teach in person.

“This law would basically codify the executive order,” said Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, the sponsor of the bill, according to the Post.

Dunnavant said her bill is “just the next step in a multi-layer attempt to get past some of this craziness.”

Nine Democrats voted against amendment, while two refrained from voting.

“I’ve just consistently voted to let the school boards make this decision,” Democratic Sen. Monty Mason, who opposed the amendment, said to the Post. “Individual areas and school boards may have data and analytical information that others don’t. … I think constitutionally the school boards make those decisions.”

The bill is up for final vote Wednesday under a 52-48 Republican majority House of Representatives.

If passed, the law will go into effect July 1.

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