Virginia state Senate Democrats joined Republicans on Tuesday to pass an amendment to a bill that would allow parents to opt out of school mask mandates by July.
''In an overwhelming bipartisan show of support, the Senate of Virginia took a significant step today for parents and children,'' Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, said in a statement following the amendment's passage.
''I applaud Sen. [Chap] Petersen's amendment to give parents the right to decide whether their children should wear masks in schools. In the last week, we have seen Democrat-led states like Oregon, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware move away from universal mask mandates in schools.
''I am pleased that there is bipartisan support for doing the same in Virginia. This shows that when we work across the aisle, we put Virginians first. I look forward to signing this bill when it comes to my desk.''
The amendment and the schools bill it is attached to will be voted on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.
If adopted and signed by Youngkin, the bill will let parents voluntarily opt out of school masking requirements by July, but Youngkin could speed up the timeline to the end of February if he can convince the Legislature that it is an emergency, according to the report.
The amendment won the approval of 10 of the state Senate's 21-member majority, along with all 19 Republicans, according to the Post.
Youngkin, who won the race for governor in November, issued an executive order on his first day in office to allow parents that choice, but the order has been tied up in the courts and is blocked in seven school districts by an Arlington County judge.
The state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by Chesapeake parents to enforce the order in their district based on technical grounds, the Post reported Monday.
As a result, Youngkin's order is on hold in the Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Hampton, Prince William County and Richmond districts.
Meanwhile, a Loudoun County judge on Monday ruled to allow Youngkin and state Attorney General Jason Miyares to join a lawsuit brought by parents in that school district to opt out of wearing a mask.
If passed Wednesday, the measure goes to the Republican-controlled House with a 52-48 majority that all but ensures passage, the Post reported.
Petersen, a Democrat, said he wants to see the issue resolved by lawmakers rather than through executive orders.
''We needed to solve this ourselves. And we will,'' Petersen told the Post. ''I don't like executive orders. … We needed to act to end the mask wars.''
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