At least it’s over. Arkansas lawmakers adjourned their special session this morning, leaving the state in worse shape than it was when they convened three days ago.
Governor Hutchinson called the legislature to Little Rock last week in hopes of tweaking Act 1002, a swaggering and shortsighted blanket ban on mask mandates for any and all government entities, including schools. With COVID-19 numbers skyrocketing and every reputable medical expert out there pleading for universal masking in classrooms to protect students and teachers, it seemed prudent to revisit the ban.
Lawmakers opted to hold tight to that ban despite clear and unequivocal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and personal pleas from the Marion Schools superintendent who already sent more than 800 people home to quarantine in the second week of classes. What will happen when the rest of Arkansas public schools open in the next week or two? Dr. Joe Thompson, president of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, has an educated guess.
“If the Legislature takes no action and allows the ban on mask mandates to remain in effect in all schools while the Delta variant rages in our communities, children will be avoidably exposed to the virus, some will be hospitalized, and likely some will die,” he said Thursday, to no effect.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families called the session disappointing and dangerous.
Both houses did manage to pass bills before they adjourned supporting the governor’s decision to withhold emergency federal unemployment payments to jobless Arkansans. Turning down free money that would help people and juice local economies doesn’t make much sense to some of us. But then, none of this makes any sense.