Governor SC McMaster doesn’t think Columbia’s mask rule is legal

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Governor Henry McMaster spoke at the launch of Horry-Georgetown Technical College on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Afterwards, he told reporters that South Carolinians must stay calm and not build up gas during the current crisis. of the gasoline supply.

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said on Monday that state law is “crystal clear” in banning masks in schools for the coming year, and said he did not believe that an ordinance recently passed by the city ​​of Columbia requiring masks in some schools would stand up to court.

Columbia City Council recently passed a measure that requires students and teachers at 43 elementary and secondary schools and daycares in the city to wear masks. This happened despite a year-long law put in the state budget by lawmakers that prevents schools from spending state funds on mask mandates.

At a press conference Monday, McMaster was asked about the Columbia rule.

“This mandate (of Colombia) is, I believe, against state law,” said McMaster, a former US attorney and former state attorney general. “State law is very clear that state funds should not be used to enforce a mask warrant. The very people who have been listed (in the city ordinance) as responsible for executing the warrant are, of course, paid in whole or in part with state funds.

The governor said public funds are intrinsic to South Carolina public schools.

“State funds permeate everything that happens in our public school system,” he said. “If the enforcement mechanism is present in the school, then it uses public funds to enforce it. This is my point of view, I think it is the point of view of the General Assembly, and I think it would be the point of view of a tribunal if it were presented to a tribunal.

Throughout Monday’s press conference, McMaster hammered home the message that wearing masks in schools should be a personal choice of parents and not forcing them into schools any time soon.

“Having to wear masks is not the solution,” McMaster said Monday. “Personal responsibility is the answer. Common sense is the answer.

On August 5, Columbia City Council voted 5-1 in a special session to endorse Mayor Steve Benjamin declaration of emergency. Violators face a potential fine of $ 100.

City councilor Daniel Rickenmann, candidate to succeed Benjamin in the November elections, was the only one to vote against the measure. He said the city should do everything possible to encourage people to wear masks, get vaccinated and take other precautions against the spread of COVID-19, but he believes a warrant will violate the law of the state.

Benjamin objected to this claim, noting that the law does not limit the city’s actions, and argued that the state’s constitution allows cities to take emergency measures such as the masks.

Columbia’s school mask ordinance was almost immediately challenged by Republican heads of state. On August 6, Senate Speaker Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee and House Speaker Jay Lucas issued a joint letter denouncing the capital measure.

Legislative leaders said they believe the one-year mask law in the state budget is “clear and unambiguous” and that it bans masks in South Carolina schools, regardless. where they are.

“The actions taken by Columbia City Council at the request and under the direction of Mayor Benjamin are in clear and willful violation of the clear meaning of the conditional clause,” Peeler and Lucas wrote.

This is not the first time that a municipal ordinance by Benjamin and the city council has aroused the ire of state officials.

State Attorney General Alan Wilson sued Columbia over three gun ordinances passed by the city in 2019. One of the laws added homemade “ghost guns” to the Nuisance Ordinance. the city. Another allowed the seizure of firearms from people with an extreme risk protection order. And the third prohibits the possession of firearms within 1,000 feet of a school.

Wilson argued that gun legislation in the state belongs to the General Assembly, and Judge Jocelyn Newman sided with him in May. The city has promised to appeal.

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Chris Trainor has worked for newspapers in South Carolina for over 16 years, including previous appearances at (Greenwood) Index-Journal and (Columbia) Free Times. He is the recipient of numerous South Carolina Press Association awards including accolades in column writing, government reporting, profile writing, food writing, election coverage and more.


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