The North Dakota House of Representatives just passed a bill banning requirements to wear face masks with Rep. Jeff Hoverson, the bill’s sponsor, labeling the initial mandate “diabolical silliness.”
The vote was 50 to 44 on House Bill 1323 Monday to ban state and local governments, businesses, and schools from passing and enforcing mask mandates, the Grand Forks Herald reported. Lawmakers called the mandate an infringement on their freedoms.
The bill will now head to the North Dakota Senate. A previous state mandate expired in January. The bill also prohibits “making use of a face mask, shield, or covering a condition for entry for education, employment, or services.”
Hoverson said that “The mask is a part of a larger apparatus of a movement of unelected, wealthy bureaucrats, who are robbing our freedoms and perpetuating lies.” He also reportedly said, “Our state is not a prison camp.”
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Rep. Jason Dockter ironically argued that banning mask-wearing would strip control from local governments. “If people wanted to decide to have a mask mandate, they should have that choice,” Dockter posited. “They should also have the choice not to mandate.”
He put forth that the state should give cities, counties, and schools “local control” of their decisions concerning the pandemic.
The tipping point on this issue came after North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) proclaimed a statewide mask mandate last November which was very unpopular with both lawmakers and constituents.
“Since the beginning, we’ve taken a data-driven approach to our pandemic response, focusing on saving lives and livelihoods,” Burgum defensively stated. “Right now, the data demands a higher level of mitigation efforts to reverse these dangerous trends, to slow the spread of this virus, and to avoid the need for economic shutdowns.” He had previously claimed he was skeptical when it came to mandatory mask directives.
The governor lifted the statewide mask rule as well as the mandate limiting the number of people allowed in restaurants, bars, and event venues two months later. He cited a massive decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Burgum claims that COVID cases dropped more than 80% and hospitalizations plummeted by approximately three-fourths when pandemic measures were in place. Health experts claim the drop was due to a combination of factors, which include increased social distancing and restrictions placed on businesses.
— Andrew Bostom, MD, MS (@andrewbostom) February 23, 2021
Republican Rep. Kathy Skroch and a number of other lawmakers claimed when arguing for the bill that mask-wearing does nothing to stop the spread of the virus.
No one else spoke up against the bill. Many believe that the bill will be met favorably in the North Dakota Senate.
Staff and other visitors are currently required to wear masks or face shields on the Capitol grounds or in the chambers. But that rule is reportedly lightly enforced and is mostly ignored, according to the Grand Forks Herald. Lawmakers in the North Dakota Legislature are now stating they will reconsider a mask mandate for lawmakers, lobbyists, and visitors as well at the state Capitol. Most members want the rule dropped and it is evident that North Dakotans have become weary of mask mandates at all levels in the state.
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