Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation Thursday morning that would ban schools from requiring students and faculty to wear face masks. The new law also prohibits counties and cities from enacting mask mandates on local businesses throughout the state.
Set to go into effect immediately, the measure passed the House by a 53-35 vote and the Senate by a 29-17 vote in the waning hours of the 2021 legislative session. Both votes were split along party lines, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing.
“The state of Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties. I want to thank the Iowa Legislature for their quick work in bringing this bill to my desk so that it can be signed into law.”
Under the new law, Iowa’s governor would still be able to implement a statewide mask mandate through the declaration of an emergency order. Localities in the state are barred from requiring businesses to abide by restrictions “more stringent” than those issued by the governor, however. Moreover, schools may only require masks if it’s for “an extracurricular or instructional reason,” or if they are “required to do so by law.”
House Republicans celebrated the passage of the bill, while noting how the massive outreach from Iowa parents helped push the measure across the finish line.
“This is about freedom. This is about liberty,” said Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison. “In my district alone, numerous parents have had enough and now since this began I have received hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of emails.”
Iowa Democrats were quick to decry the move, arguing that the measure could prevent local governments from effectively dealing with future public health matters.
“We don’t know what’s coming down the road,” said Rep. Christina Bohannan, D-Iowa City. “And we shouldn’t tie the hands of local governments and school boards in responding to any kinds of future illnesses or threats.”