Virginia Senate Democrats Join GOP on Amendment to Allow Parents to Opt Out of Mask Mandates

After several weeks of angrily denouncing Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin over his executive order allowing parents to opt out of the school mask mandate, many Democrats in the Virginia Senate are now embracing the idea.

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The change of heart by Democrats comes as several other blue states are mulling over the elimination of school mask mandates as the omicron wave recedes.

But Democrats want to proceed more cautiously, lifting the mandate on July 1, while Republicans want to end the mandate immediately.

Washington Post:

The amendment was made into a bill that would require schools to teach in person. If passed by both chambers and signed into law, it would go into effect July 1.

But an administration aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy said efforts have been underway to clear a path for the amended bill to get it implemented much sooner.

Once the measure clears the Senate, the aide said, the House could take it up in expedited fashion and pass it by early next week. The 52-48 Republican majority in the House ensures easy passage there.

When the bill gets to Youngkin’s desk, the aide said, the governor could add an emergency clause that would require the law to be implemented immediately.

Some of the Senate Democrats are supporting the amendment because they believe it wouldn’t go into effect until July 1. It’s unknown whether they will vote for the expedited emergency clause when the bill is returned to the legislature.

Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) said he supported the measure Tuesday in part because it wouldn’t go into effect until July 1. The current law under which many school boards have established mask mandates expires as of Aug. 1, so the new measure would only speed things up by a month, he said.

And that comes at a time when declining rates of infection are leading scientists to change their guidance on the pandemic, Surovell said. “It looks to me like all signs are pointing toward a lot less risk for everyone coming soon and pretty definitely by this summer, when the bill would become effective,” he said.

What’s really behind the Democrats’ change of heart? Democrats got a thorough shellacking last November, not only losing the governorship but also both chambers of the legislature. The election was their “come to Jesus” moment on the pandemic after they realized the depth of passion exhibited by many people, not just parents, about the mandates.

National Republicans are looking at political rookie Glenn Youngkin in a whole different light. Rather than seeing his election victory as a fluke, Youngkin’s ability to appeal to lawmakers across the aisle marks him as a politician to watch going into 2024.

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