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Seven Maine legislators out of assignments after refusing to wear mask in State House

The Portland Press Herald and the Associated Press reported seven legislators tried to enter the State House without COVID face coverings, defying house rules.

AUGUSTA, Maine — According to the Associated Press, Maine's Democratic Speaker of the House removed six Maine Republicans and one Libertarian legislator from committee assignments after defying house rules on wearing COVID face coverings. 

Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau removed the seven lawmakers after the group had a confrontation with Capitol Police about mask rules in the Maine State House. Rep. John Andrews, a Libertarian from Paris, Reps. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn; Sherm Hutchins, R-Penobscot; Chris Johansen, R-Monticello; Heidi Sampson, R-Alfred; Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea; and Jim Thorne, R-Carmel, were all removed according to the Portland Press Herald

The group, led by Rep. Libby, released a video and statement saying house rules contradict the science. 

VIDEO OF MAINE LEGISLATORS ENTERING WITHOUT MASKS

"Today we attempted to do what citizens throughout Maine are doing, follow the Governor's recent Executive Order making the wearing of masks an individual choice," said Libby in the release. "We attempted to go to work on behalf of our constituents and where impeded from doing so at the direction of President Jackson, Speaker Fecteau and other Democratic leaders on the Legislative Council. When it became clear that Capitol Security and nonpartisan staff lacked the legal authority and or applicable policies to prevent our entry, we proceeded into the State House to complete our work. The idea that the Legislature is somehow above the rules governing the public, science, or even common sense, is indefensible and cannot stand." 

House Speaker Ryan Fecteau told the Associated Press mask rules are about demonstrating "a respect for our shared workplace."

"I simply will not tolerate attempts to devolve our institution into showmanship and political theater," Fecteau said Monday.

House leaders voted last Thursday to reject a GOP proposal to follow the Maine and US CDC guidelines for indoor masking. 

Maine House Republican Spokesperson John Bott told the Press Herald no masking policy had been publicly posted and that the members were trying to follow Maine CDC guidelines.

Some of the same state legislators who got kicked off their committees Monday, sent a letter to Gov. Janet Mills Tuesday, asking her to remove mask requirements for children. The letter from 19 House members—Republicans and one Libertarian—was led by Libby.

She wrote, in part, “… It makes no sense to continue to impose this onerous restriction on those under the age of 20 … Based on what we now know and after fifteen months of CDC data, allowing the mask mandate to remain for children when it has been lifted for everyone else is no longer defensible.”

But the Governor’s office doesn’t appear convinced. The response to NEWS CENTER Maine from the Governor’s communications director was that, “12,535 kids under the age of 20 – including 2,700 kids ages 12-15 – have contracted COVID-19 in Maine. Today alone, the Maine CDC opened three outbreak investigations associated with schools in Maine … and the U.S. CDC recommends that those who are not fully vaccinated wear face coverings.”


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