Gilchrist asks GOP leaders for mask mandate in Legislature

LANSING (AP) — Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II called Wednesday for Republican legislative leaders to enact and enforce a mask requirement inside the House and Senate chambers at all times, saying he fears for the safety of his family and others when lawmakers do not wear a face covering.

The Democrat presides over session in the Senate, which was scheduled to return today to start passing bills following a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's coronavirus orders.

The state health department requires masks at indoor non-residential gatherings, but the Legislature is seen as exempt from that order and the governor’s prior face covering order — first issued in April — because it is a separate branch of government.

Though legislators have been encouraged to wear masks, many Republicans either do not or they remove them to speak or while seated alone at their desk. Democrats are more vigilant about using masks, though some remove them to give formal remarks during session.

In an “open letter,” Gilchrist urged Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake and House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering to require face coverings. He said he is the father of young children and has lost 23 people to COVID-19.

Masks, he wrote, are a “matter of science” and are proven to be an effective, simple way to slow the spread of the virus.

Shirkey spokeswoman Amber McCann said he has reiterated to his caucus members that they should wear a mask on the floor, in committee hearings and in their offices.

He believes senators do try to wear a mask in the chamber and does not feel a mandate, rule or regulation is needed, she said.

Chatfield’s spokesman has previously cited constitutional issues compelling elected lawmakers to wear face coverings, though Democrats have noted legislators must adhere to various rules in the chambers.


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