Four Democratic state senators from the Philadelphia area have introduced a bill in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly that would make not wearing a mask in public punishable by up to two years and a $5,000 fine.
The bill before the Senate codifies Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order issued on July 1 that requires masks “be worn whenever anyone leaves home.”
The consideration of the measure comes as a federal judge on Monday ruled that Wolf’s order – and enforcement by state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine – that closed businesses and placed other restrictions to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus was unconstitutional.
The bill makes non-compliance with the requirement of a mask in public a second-degree misdemeanor, likening it to “assault, further providing for the offense of recklessly endangering another person.”
Reaction from Republicans has been swift.
“Just when I thought it couldn’t get anymore crazy... a bill has been introduced in the PA State Senate that makes it a 2nd Degree Misdemeanor to not wear a mask, regardless of age or medical condition,” state Rep. Aaron Bernstine – whose 10th district is near Pittsburgh — posted to his campaign’s Facebook page.
Another member of the state House of Representatives, Rep. Tim O’Neal, also decried the bill.
“While we should all wear masks, keep our social distance and wash our hands in order to protect our community, no fines or criminal charges should be filed against those who do not follow the governor’s mask mandate," O'Neal told NorthCentralPA.com. "Our law enforcement officers have enough on their plates. They should not be turned into the mask police."
Republicans control both houses of the General Assembly, with 28 of the 50 Senate seats and 109 of the 203 House seats. Pennsylvania is eighth on the list for most COVID-related deaths in the United States, with 7,961 according to worldometers.info.
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