Republicans in the Iowa legislature have voted Wednesday evening to ban mask mandates in all Iowa schools, as well as in cities and counties. Governor Reynolds signed the bill shortly after midnight and it became law immediately.
That means as school begins on this Thursday, May 20, mask mandates still in effect in Iowa school districts are nullified. Mask mandates established by city and county officials for private businesses are now banned as well. House Speaker Pat Grassley delivered a copy of the bill to Reynolds in her statehouse office, as a cheering crowd surrounded the governor’s desk for the private event.
“The state of Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions,” Reynolds said in a written statement.
During House debate a few hours earlier, Republican Representative Dustin Hite of New Sharon said he’s been fielding complaints about mask mandates since the pandemic began.
“You want to talk about something that’s grassroots, this is something I’ve heard about — I’ve lost count,” Hite said.
Representative Marti Anderson, a Democrat from Des Moines, said face coverings are a part of the “public health response” to the pandemic.
“Don’t we have a responsibility to protect the health of the people around us?” Anderson asked.
Representative Eric Gjerdes, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said banning mask mandates “isn’t based on science, it’s based on perception.”
“Masks make sense right now make sense for folks that are not vaccinated,” he said. “The majority of students in Iowa schools have not been doubly vaccinated.”
Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, said “numerous” parents in his district have had enough and they don’t want their children wearing a mask in school.
“If we believe the vaccines work, if we believe that masks work, then fine. Get the vaccine. Wear the mask and don’t worry about what other people are doing,” Holt said. “You be you and you let them be them. This is about freedom.”
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, was among those who said the ban could prevent local governments from responding to future public health emergencies.
“Masks work,” Bolkcom said. “They have worked and it’s a good thing that local governments and school districts have taken it upon themselves to encourage the use of masks.”
Senator Carrie Koelker, a Republican from Dyersville, said it’s time to learn from the lessons of the pandemic.
“Kids do get Covid. My children have had Covid. Kids get colds, kids get cancer and kids get the flu,” Dyersville said. “We cannot continue to live in an entire bubble.”
The bill passed both the Senate and House early Wednesday evening on what was the final day of the 2021 legislative session.