Legislature Passes Local Mask Ordinance Option Policy
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
by: Matt Musgrave

Section: Legislative Update

On Monday, November 22nd the Vermont Legislature convened a special session to address their concerns with the states response to COVID-19 outbreaks. Since Halloween Vermont has carried a record number of positive tests which include both unvaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Based on the number of positive tests legislators have been pressuring Governor Phil Scott to reinstate Vermonts emergency declaration and require a statewide mask mandate among other measures. The Governor has stated repeatedly that based on the data he is not even close to declaring another state of emergency. He and other state officials have been citing that although the positive case count is rising, vaccinated individuals are either totally asymptomatic or experience mild symptoms and that hospitalizations are still very low. The Governor did however agree to allow the legislature to reconvene to provide temporary authority to municipalities to institute their own mask policies through April 2022.

The week prior to the special session the rules committees met to discuss and plan how the day would go. The House Rules committee believed everyone would be out the door shortly after 12pm having passed the bill allowing municipalities to regulate masks. How wrong they were..... The first surprise was that a quorum was not achieved at the schedule 10am start in the House of Representatives with only an handful showing up. Then the debates in both the House and Senate were unique to many other witnessed in the past. Emotions were high and legislators were debating medical facts from a muriad of different sources and opinions. At times it felt more like reading the comment section on social media about a news article with people providing their own "truths". Eventually at the end of the long day they were able to pass out the bill allowing mask protocols in municipalities.

The Senate went a little further with their own resolution demanding the Governor take more action to address COVID-19. The resolution demands that the Governor reinstate the emergency order, require a statewide mask mandate, provide more testing and a few other protocols. As it was a resolution it does not require that the Governor do anything, but it was meant as a political statement. On Tuesday, Governor Scott explained in his weekly press conference that in fact no, he would not be reinstating the emergency order.