HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Governor Wolf wants lawmakers to pass a bill for a statewide school mask mandate. Republicans are against that.
Some are asking why the governor doesn’t just mandate masks himself.
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Technically, he still has that option. However, his spokeswoman says first he wanted to try to work with the legislature.
Even though Gov. Wolf is asking for a school mask mandate, for now, it doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Assistant professor of public policy at Penn State Harrisburg Daniel Mallinson says that’s because there’s a lot of difficult dynamics at play.
“It seems in the near term, it’s probably a political power struggle,” Mallinson said.
The Governor sent a letter on Wednesday asking Republican lawmakers to pass a school mask mandate. On Thursday Senate President Jake Corman and House Speaker Bryan Cutler sent a letter in response.
It said in part, “We believe that the current approach – allowing local officials to manage and respond as needed – makes the most sense and should be continued.”
Governor Wolf’s spokeswoman shot back in a statement, “We agree that decisions are best left to local leaders, but we are increasingly concerned that Republican members are interfering with these decisions and threatening school boards either implicitly or explicitly. “
So why doesn’t Wolf avoid the back and forth and just put a mask requirement in place? After all, he did it earlier in the pandemic.
But, since then voters passed a Republican-backed amendment to curb his disaster emergency powers, so this is a way to show he’s willing to work with lawmakers.
“Having the legislature involved in these emergency operations requires negotiation between the two branches, just like legislation does. And that’s a lot messier than the governor just being able to act,” Mallinson said.
He says technically the Wolf Administration still could do it on its own public health emergency powers, or Wolf may just save his stamps and say he tried.
“He could potentially say well the legislature didn’t do anything so I’m going to. Or it does give the opportunity to blame shift if they don’t and things don’t go well in the fall,” Mallinson said.
In their letter, Republican leaders said the best strategy for mitigating COVID is to get more people vaccinated.
They urged Governor Wolf to make it clear in state COVID data who is vaccinated and who isn’t when it comes to infections, hospitalizations, and death. They hope that would encourage more masking and vaccinations.