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Thursday, September 16, 2021

House GOP Lawmaker Compromising with Democrat on School Mask Bill

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Monday evening, the House Public Education Committee considered two different bills relating to mask mandates in public schools.

Before laying out the bills, the committee’s chairman, State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) announced that both he and State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Allen), the author of one of the bills being considered had come to an agreement that they believed the decision for mask mandates is best left up to the individual school districts as long as in a mandate to wear masks they also include a parental ‘opt-out’ provision for the reasons of conscience, religious or philosophical beliefs.

Leach very briefly introduced his bill as filed, alluding to changes that he would work on with Dutton after the conclusion of the committee hearing which included allowing school districts to mandate masks as long as they also include a parental ‘opt-out’ provision as a part of the mandate.

As filed, Leach’s bill would have simply prohibited mask mandates by public schools.

Dutton’s bill allows school districts to mandate masks for public school children that are 12 years of age and younger.

What Does it All Mean?

With less than one week left in the ongoing second-called special legislative session, it is unclear whether any of the two bills considered this evening will pass out of committee in time, let alone make it through the entirety of the legislative process.

Notably, no bill has been considered in the Senate related to mask mandates.

In July, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that consolidated several of his previous executive orders. Included was a prohibition on mask mandates in public schools. Abbott also included a request that the legislature consider “legislation providing strategies for public-school education in prekindergarten through twelfth grade during the COVID-19 pandemic, which ensures: the wearing of face coverings is

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