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Legislation threatened over SLC mayor's K-12 mask mandate

Erin Mendenhall
Posted at 9:49 AM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 00:14:31-04

SALT LAKE CITY  — A powerful state lawmaker is threatening legislation over Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall's K-12 mask mandate.

In a post on Facebook, House Majority Whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, voiced his opposition to the mayor's mandate. He also warned legislation was coming to rein in the power of mayors utilizing emergency orders.

READ: Lawsuit challenges Utah’s mask mandate bans and restrictions

"Mayor Mendenhall continues to invent new and unprecedented authority in a statute that, by design, is very narrow in scope. Health Department Directors, in jurisdictions across the country, have approached Covid-19 differently. In contrast, we don’t debate disasters. Fires, floods, earthquakes, TB outbreaks, etc. The difference is clear," he wrote.

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Rep. Shultz said in the post that there may be consequences for any abuse of emergency powers.

"This troubling pattern of issuing orders and claiming authority granted through emergency powers MUST be stopped. There will be legislation to further clarify what constitutes an emergency and what powers are granted during an emergency. It appears we may need to include ramifications for when officials abuse that power," he said.

In an interview with FOX 13 on Friday just after she announced the K-12 mask mandate, Mayor Mendenhall insisted she was well within her legal authority. She said she was using the criteria set forth in a bill the legislature passed, and it was available to mayors across Utah.

READ: Summit County will require masks in elementary schools that reach 2% positivity rate

Asked specifically how the legislature might react, the mayor told FOX 13: "I don’t know what the legislature might do but this is completely in legal authority for myself and any mayor to take this kind of an action."

On Capitol Hill, there has been little comment on Mayor Mendenhall's actions. The House Speaker declined comment. Governor Spencer Cox has yet to weigh in. Senate President J. Stuart Adams would only say: "Our priority is to keep students safe and ensure in-person learning options are available for K-12 students. We will continue to monitor the data and oversee the situation not only in Salt Lake City but across the state."