AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s Legislative Council has adopted a new policy on Thursday requiring all members to wear protective face coverings during legislative committee meetings to protect the health and safety of legislators, legislative staff, and others amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Legislative Council is a bipartisan committee comprising members of House and Senate leadership.
The vote was 7-1-2 with Rep. Kathleen Dillingham (R) of Oxford, voting against this safety measure. Sen. Jeff Timberlake (R) of Turner, and Rep. Trey Stewart (R) of Presque Isle, did not return the ballot registering their vote, despite multiple attempts contacted.
The senate president's office cites new research wearing face coverings in public reduces the spread of COVID-19.
Statement from Senate President Troy Jackson:
“Today, legislative leadership adopted a critical policy to protect the health and safety of lawmakers and staff as we begin returning to the State House amid COVID-19. This is a commonsense policy that reflects what Dr. Fauci, Dr. Shah, and other public health experts have reported – wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of this virus and is essential to reopening the economy.
“More than a hundred Mainers have lost their lives due to this virus. We’ve lost beloved grandparents, decorated veterans, and pillars of our communities. We owe it to them and their loved ones to take COVID-19 seriously and to enact policies that allow us to do our work in a sage, CDC-compliant manner. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t reach a unanimous vote on this responsible policy change. I’m even more disappointed that Sen. Timberlake and Rep. Stewart couldn’t be bothered to weigh in on this decision when they stood on the steps earlier this week calling to reconvene the Legislature. This policy is about our commitment to the health and safety of our staff, colleagues, and communities.
“As we look to reconvene, we must do everything in our power to protect the people of this state and the hardworking staff who draft legislation, calculate fiscal notes, and run this building. Otherwise, we risk spreading the virus from one area of the state to another. With businesses reopening, hospitalizations stabilizing and deaths slowing, allowing members to forgo a face mask is simply a risk we cannot and will not take.”
Statement from Speaker of the House Sara Gideon:
“This new policy allows us to continue our legislative work while preventing us from doing harm to those who work in the State House and the communities we travel home to. As we know, the U.S. CDC recommends the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. As we look towards reconvening the Legislature, it’s discouraging that some of our Republican colleagues would not support this proven public health practice. Certain health and safety measures will be necessary to continue our legislative work in a responsible manner.
“In the past three months, Maine people and businesses have done their part and made remarkable sacrifices to lead us to where we are today, with declining case counts and hospitalizations slowing. In order to maintain these gains and keep our frontline workers safe, we need to follow the best public health guidance available to us, including wearing a face covering. This is critical to both stopping continued spread and safely reopening our economy.”
At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.newscentermaine.com/coronavirus.