FRANKFORT, Ky. — Under a bill that passed a House committee Tuesday, no state law, executive order or school policy could require masks, including at public colleges.
Rep. Lynn Bechler (R, Marion), sponsor of House Bill 51, pointed to speech delays, breathing issues and problems with acne.
“Parents should be able to make their own decision regarding masks through high school,” he said. “College students can vote for president. Shouldn’t they also be allowed to make their own masking decision?”
Rep. Steve Riley (R, Glasgow) said the masks have had a negative impact on elementary students learning to read.
“Facial expressions are so big ... when you try to teach reading and those types of things,” he said.
Rep. Attica Scott (D, Louisville) questioned Bechler, saying masks are about public health.
“Why would we not want to protect ourselves and especially our most vulnerable, our children, from this global virus?” Scott asked Bechler.
He replied, “Because masks don’t work.”
“That’s not true,” said Scott.
Kristin Worthen spoke in opposition to the bill, and held up a photo of her son, who has a medical condition.
“To take away this protection from my family, to take away my children’s ability to attend school by advocating for this bill, you’re actively advocating against medically fragile kids and their families,” she said.
Several lawmakers raised concerns about the measure taking away local control.
“All the evidence about mask wearing and harms, it’s anecdotal,” said Rep. Killian Timoney (R, Lexington). “What’s not anecdotal is (nontraditional instruction) being a detriment. So that’s why I’m a no vote today, to keep local control and to make sure that we’re keeping kids in person.”
House Bill 51 moves next to the full House.