North Carolina House pauses passage of bill that would ban masking for health reasons

A North Carolina bill partially meant to address mask-wearing at protests was under review Wednesday after some House Republicans raised issue with the legislation’s impact on people who wear masks for health reasons.

The state House voted not to accept changes made to the bill by the state Senate that would remove a pandemic-era masking exemption for health purposes.

Aside from the health exemption removal, the bill would enhance penalties for people who wear masks while committing a crime and for people who block roadways during a demonstration. The bill comes, in part, as a response to widespread college protests, including on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus, about the war in Gaza.

The House’s vote means the legislation will head to a team of lawmakers to negotiate revisions to it.

Rep. Erin Pare, the only Republican who represents part of Wake County, posted on the social platform X over the weekend saying she opposed the bill’s removal of the health exemption — a law passed along mostly bipartisan lines during the start of the pandemic in 2020. The bill as written has already caused confusion for the public, she said.

“The right thing to do here is to add back the deleted provisions regarding medical masking and give the public clarity on the issue,” she wrote.

Due to the GOP’s slim supermajority in both chambers, the party needs every Republican vote to secure the bill’s passage, or it could fail.

House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters after the vote that he understood why the Senate proposed its changes to the bill, but there was interest in the House to draft language to maintain health and safety protections for masking.

Before Pare took her stance publicly, many Senate Democrats repeatedly echoed concerns that immunocompromised people could be targeted for wearing a mask in public. Republican supporters have said the bill’s intention isn’t to criminalize masking for health reasons but rather to stop people from concealing their identity while committing a crime.

Legislative staff said in a Senate committee last week that masking for health purposes would violate the proposed law.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.




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