LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Many Republican lawmakers in states where coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have surged are not only rejecting statewide mask mandates. They’re also resisting rules requiring them in their own capitols.
Efforts to require lawmakers and staff to wear masks have received a cool reception even in statehouses that have seen outbreaks of the virus or where Republican governors have issued statewide mandates. It’s echoing a partisan divide nationwide over a simple step that health experts say is proven to help keep others safe.
“We’re supposed to be modeling for our constituents and for our residents in our state,” said Arkansas state Sen. Stephanie Flowers, a Democrat in the majority-Republican Legislature who proposed a rule requiring senators to wear a mask or risk losing their per diem payments. “You’ve got the governor asking everyone to wear a mask and socially distance. It’s not like I’m asking for something nobody has heard of.”
Many legislatures are still planning and drafting rules for their 2021 legislative sessions, while four chambers approved rules requiring masks for sessions this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Nearly 200 legislators nationwide have tested positive for the virus and four have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press. After at least four dozen Mississippi lawmakers tested positive in the largest outbreak in a legislature, where masks were encouraged but not required for lawmakers.…