Several of Pulaski County’s Democratic lawmakers submitted a letter on Thursday asking the Arkansas House, Senate and governor’s office to end the ban on mask mandates as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens across the state.
The letter reads, in part: “On July 27, 2021, Act 1002 will take effect. As you are aware, this act prohibits a state agency or entity; a political subdivision or the state; or state or local officials from mandating the use of face masks, face shields or other face coverings as a condition for entry, education or services. Not one of us voted for this legislation. In fact, it would be fair to say we vehemently opposed it, but we are clear it was passed following processes formulated and agreed to by both the House and the Senate.”
State Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock, who was one of the lawmakers to sign the letter, said that they are in favor of changing Act 1002 of 2021 to provide flexibility to allow local officials to decide whether to require masks for safety purposes.
“The problem we face now is Act 1002 was passed in what seems another epoch. Health-wise, that was certainly the case. Having followed medically informed protocols, there was reason to believe that when it came to COVID-19, our state was going in the right direction. There was reason to assume it was safe to return to a sense of normality, so we did so—even passing legislation surely informed by that optimism. As with most things in this pandemic, however, nothing is certain, and since the legislature recessed in April, circumstances in our state have altered dramatically,” the letter continues.
When asked about the letter, Gov. Asa Hutchinson told media that his main focus is vaccinations. Additionally, he stated that he did not foresee a consensus in the legislature that things would change.
The letter was signed by Sen. Elliot, Sen. Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock, Sen. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock, Rep. Andrew Collins of Little Rock, Rep. Joy Springer of Little Rock, Rep. Fred Allen of Little Rock, Rep. Tippi McCullough of Little Rock, Rep. Fred Love of Little Rock, Rep. Jamie Scott of North Little Rock, Rep. Denise Emmett of Little Rock, Rep. Ashley Hudson of Little Rock and Rep. Mark Perry of Jacksonville.