UPDATE: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has responded to my request for her views on the statewide mask mandate announced today.
“I have long encouraged Arkansans to take personal responsibility of preventing the spread of COVID19 by wearing masks when not able to socially distance. It is imperative that we all take the exponential spread of this deadly disease seriously not only for the safety of family, friends and neighbors, but we must also reopen our schools and get our economy back to its full strength moving our country away from this virus and back to exercising our God given freedoms.”
The message was relayed through an office spokesman. I followed up by asking if Rutledge might discuss legalities. Response:
That’s the statement.
At least one putative lawyer-legislator, Sen. Bob Ballinger, thinks a mandate is unconstitutional. Along with being required to wear clothes in grocery stores, presumably. It’s in those articles or amendments somewhere.
At least two attorneys general, Jeff Landry in Louisiana and Daniel Cameron in Kentucky have questioned the legality of mask mandates. They are among the Republican attorneys general that Rutledge has joined frequently around the country in ideological court efforts. Opinions diverge, but there does appear to be a trend toward masks as the COVID-19 toll continues its rise. Maybe it IS worth trying something.
Might this be another one? What if a lawsuit challenges the mandate? Would Rutledge defend the governor’s executive order?
I have seen the attorney general wear a mask in public. She wore one in a meeting with me as well, though I said it was fine if she removed it when she requested. We were outdoors and sitting well apart at a picnic table.
Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, another gubernatorial candidate, donned a mask to shake hands with a maskless Attorney General William Barr in Little Rock the other day. Rutledge distributed a photo of herself maskless at one point in that same day of Barr events. Sen.Jim Hendren, wore a mask in legislative sessions though some of his Republican colleagues refused. He’s another gubernatorial contender.
And then there’s Donald Trump’s former designated lie-regurgitator, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Her old boss is all over on masks, mostly against.
ALSO: A follower of the Times alerted me to this article by a law professor and law student examining the legality of facemask orders under the constitution. Generally supportive, I’d say in summary. The orders regulate conduct, not speech, and the law gives states wide latitude in public health. Some exceptions must be considered, but it appears Hutchinson’s order does so (maybe overly so with his continued preference for not mandating anything for churches).