Repost from Virginia Mercury.
After signing a fast-tracked law ending school mask mandates in Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Wednesday he hopes there will be no more legal challenges over the issue as school divisions work to comply with a March 1 deadline to make masks optional.
“My strong hope is that this will put everything to bed,” Youngkin told reporters after signing the bill on the steps of the Capitol amid a throng of children and supporters. “And that we’ll recognize that we now have a law of the land… that in fact protects the rights of parents to make this decision.”
Youngkin emphasized the bill he signed came from the state Senate, meaning it couldn’t have passed without a handful of Democrats on board. Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, who led the anti-mandate effort in the Senate, attended Wednesday’s ceremony but said he declined an offer to speak.
Most Democrats strongly opposed the bill, and the Democratic Party of Virginia denounced the move despite some of its own members helping to see it through.
“At a time when our school divisions continue to face the ongoing effects of this pandemic and uncertainty about what lies ahead, we need to empower our local school boards to remain nimble and meet the ever-changing needs of our schools and students,” said DPVA Chairwoman Susan Swecker. “Instead, Governor Youngkin has chosen to strip them of their constitutional responsibilities and tie their hands.”
The signing ceremony, preceded by a lengthy Youngkin appearance on Fox News, marked the first major legislative win for the new governor, effectively overriding ongoing legal battles over his executive order that also took aim at school mask mandates. Just a few weeks ago, seven school divisions won a court injunction temporarily suspending that order.
Critics, including the state’s major education groups, maintain the anti-mandate law infringes on the constitutional authority of local school boards who now cannot make masks mandatory. But the General Assembly-approved law carries more legal weight than Youngkin acting alone under his executive powers.