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If the Salt Lake Co. Council doesn't overturn mask mandates, the Utah legislature might

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Posted at 3:25 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 17:51:32-05

SALT LAKE CITY — If the Salt Lake County Council does not overturn its public health order, the Utah State Legislature might.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, told FOX 13 on Wednesday that a number of lawmakers are considering bringing forth legislation to overturn county-level mask mandates.

"I believe that decision is best made at the Salt Lake County Council. I hope they make the right decision and reverse the order. I think it’s causing a lot of unnecessary contention in the community and I don’t think it’s accomplishing what we wanted to," he said. "But we’ll see. There’s 104 lawmakers and I think any one of them can move a bill forward. I know there are a number out there that do just that. But I hope local elected officials take responsibility for their own communities."

Under Utah law, local health departments can issue public health orders for things like masking. But county commissions or councils can vote to overturn it. Salt Lake and Summit counties have imposed masking requirements to battle a surge in omicron variant COVID-19 cases.

Salt Lake County Council Chair Laurie Stringham allowed the mask mandate to go into effect last week. At Tuesday's council meeting, Council member Dave Alvord made a motion to hold a special meeting to vote on whether to uphold the mask requirement. It passed and a Thursday afternoon has now been scheduled. If they do vote to override it, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson can veto it (assuming the Republican-led county council does not vote with a veto-proof majority).

But under the law, the Utah State Legislature can also exercise some authority over mask requirements. It was included in a provision of the COVID-19 "endgame" bill that eliminated a number of public health measures as the vaccine became widely available.

"They actually have the first opportunity to look at it, and the legislature will have the second," Senate President J. Stuart Adams told FOX 13 on Wednesday.

He said it remains to be seen if there will be legislation to overturn the mandate.

"I believe in masks, i don’t believe in the mandate," the Senate President said.

Asked by FOX 13 if this is overriding local authorities' decision making, he replied: "It isn’t. We set a policy in place, we have a process and our founding fathers didn’t believe a governor, president or even a mayor should set policy. The legislative body should set policy."