Oklahoma House Democrats Call For Special Session To Reverse Ban On School Mask Mandates
House Democrats in Oklahoma are calling for a special session to repeal a bill regarding face mask usage.
Senate Bill 658 bans Oklahoma school districts from requiring face masks unless the government issues a state of emergency.
Gov. Kevin Stitt says he will not issue a COVID-19 state of emergency, calling on Oklahomans to use "personal responsibility."
The governor can call a special session or the Legislature can convene its own session with the support of two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber.
The CDC has recommended universal masking in schools.
Under current law, schools in Oklahoma can encourage students to wear masks, but they can’t mandate face coverings.
Below are statements from House Democrats calling for the special session.
House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman:
“What has to happen before we take COVID seriously? We have children in ICU. Our schools are about to open without the ability to protect staff and students, and as cases continue to rise, our vaccination rate is one of the worst in the nation. If the Governor is going to abdicate his responsibility, the Legislature must act. The House Democratic Caucus is calling for the Legislature to convene a special session immediately to repeal Senate Bill 658 and give school districts a chance to act.”
Rep. Merleyn Bell, D-Norman:
“As the parent of a school-aged child, I implore the Governor to call for a special session and work with the Legislature to repeal Senate Bill 658, which stripped local school districts’ right to make decisions about how best to ensure the health and safety of their students, teachers, and staff.”
Rep. Denise Brewer, D-Tulsa:
“The Governor keeps talking about personal responsibility while refusing to take steps to protect our citizens from the resurgence of COVID. I call on Governor Stitt to take ‘personal responsibility’ and call a special session so that local communities can protect themselves. It’s the right thing to do, and the responsible thing. ”
Rep. José Cruz, D-OKC:
“I represent some of the hardest working Oklahomans in House District 89. When the pandemic first hit, we were the hardest hit. We had the least access to vaccines, and we lost our friends and family. We value our health because it’s the only way we get up every day to provide for our families. It is time to act now before we lose more Oklahomans.”
Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-OKC:
“It is frustrating that leadership in this state has championed local control until now when the lives of our children are at stake. Local control is good for schools, the economy, and communities. Whether you are for or against any particular health provision, I think we all can agree that decisions are best made by the people directly impacted by them. We need to allow communities and schools to protect themselves. I join my colleagues in calling for a special session.”
Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City:
“Arkansas’ GOP Governor, Asa Hutchinson, is calling for a special session to repeal Arkansas’ version of Senate Bill 658 to allow local decisions to protect students and teachers. That’s because COVID is exploding across Arkansas. COVID patients, both old and YOUNG, are filling Arkansas hospitals. Oklahoma is about four weeks behind Arkansas in our COVID trajectory. The time to act is NOW. Local officials need options. Right now the only option they have is to close school buildings and go virtual. The best instruction is in person instruction and we must work to preserve that option safely.”
Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa:
“Close your eyes to a tidal wave and it will still hit you in the face. An emergency should be declared by Governor Stitt, this Covid variant is more contagious, more deadly for many. Numbers are doubling weekly and patients are forced out of state as we have run out of emergency Covid beds in Oklahoma. We should move to protect each other, the worst is yet to come, as new Covid deaths mount.”
Rep. Jason Lowe, D-OKC:
“The fight against COVID-19 in Oklahoma is far from over. It is time for the Governor and the Legislature to act to ensure that our municipalities and school districts have the power to make decisions on what is best for the safety and well-being of their communities.”
Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-OKC:
"The politicizing of the Coronavirus pandemic and vaccine highlights a clear indication of the inability to lead and adequately serve Oklahomans. We knew Senate Bill 658 was irresponsible and short-sighted and now we are seeing the challenges local decision makers are faced with as they do everything possible to keep those they serve safe and alive. It is time to act and encourage what we know is safe and effective – Oklahomans’ lives are literally depending on it. What has happened to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’?"
Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-OKC:
“We are seeing our numbers rise. This is an opportunity for state-elected officials to stand firm in solidarity to encourage Governor Stitt to promote new safety precautions for the new Covid-19 Delta variant statewide.
“I work very closely with the healthcare industry and frontline workers. There is so much at stake during this health crisis for our communities of color, including our students, businesses, and tribes. I want to commend President Biden for setting a national goal for vaccinations and now supporting states for implementing local standards.”
Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa:
“Our needs across Oklahoma look different depending on where you live, and we’ve got to have the freedom to make decisions that are best for keeping our children safe in school and in-person (when possible) based on local data. We ask the Governor to step up and pave the way for our local schools and hospitals to be able to protect life.
“I knew Senate Bill 658 would come back to haunt us. I just didn't know it would be so soon. Lives are at stake. The time is now for the Governor to call a state of emergency and for our Legislature to go into special session to repeal this bill.”
Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater:
“A health emergency is vital for the Stillwater community. Home to Stillwater Public Schools, Oklahoma State University, Career Tech, and the north-central Oklahoma regional hospital Stillwater Medical Center, our community needs to be able to make decisions based on the current threat of virus spread. Recently passed legislation prohibits this. The current rhetoric of personal responsibility doesn't go far enough. It's time for local control to return to local leaders.”
Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman:
“I’m completely befuddled by how some elected leaders are not only ignoring the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations but are actively working to usurp local control in regards to the prevention of the spread of this virus and variants, especially in our schools. I’ll continue to use common sense to battle against the senselessness of ignoring the health and wellness of folks here in Oklahoma.”
Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa:
“We know that taking early action before a wave of Covid hits saves lives. An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure. The Governor should act quickly to protect Oklahomans before the start of the new school year.”
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