State lawmakers, leaders weigh in on mask mandate debate

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – State leaders are weighing in on both sides of the mask debate. A state budget proviso is in place that threatens to withhold state funding should a school district implement a mask mandate.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman says she disagrees with Governor Henry McMaster. He isn’t backing down on the mask mandate prohibition.

“Again, it’s the parents who are the experts on their own children,” said Governor McMaster.

“Send your child to school with a mask on,” said Superintendent Molly Spearman.

In a news conference on Tuesday, South Carolina Democrats and the Black Caucus called for a special session among the State House of Representatives and State Senate to discuss the proviso. Many state leaders, including Representative Marvin Pendarvis of Charleston County, believe it needs to be repealed.

“We’ve seen a bipartisan contingent of senators come out in support of having a special session in order to address it and I believe the circumstances are necessary,” said Pendarvis.

He said when the proviso was put in place in June, COVID numbers were a lot lower.

“We could argue that it was probably right for that moment. But right now it’s not right,” he said.

The Attorney General’s office has not announced any lawsuits or any legal action against school districts.

A statement from the ag’s office says the following.

The Legislature passed provisos prohibiting mask and vaccination mandates. We believe the rule of law should be followed. We were already weighing our options on a similar mandate passed by the City of Columbia but we’re not ready to announce what action we might take. And just to be clear, this is NOT about the AG’s office being against local government having the authority to impose mask mandates. They certainly have that right. This is about the General Assembly having the ultimate legal authority to appropriate money to local schools and governments with ‘conditions’ attached and whether those schools and governments can ignore the law. This office is not anti-mask or anti-home rule. I support home rule and support individual choice of wearing masks but we have to follow the rule of law.

Office of Attorney General Alan Wilson

Pendarvis says he expects the Speaker of the House and the Senate President will either comment or make a decision regarding that special session by the end of the week.

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