Palmesano: Assembly Minority Offers Amendment to End School Mask Mandate; Assembly Majority Rejects Proposal

Amendment would prohibit state agencies from developing regulations requiring children to wear masks, restoring authority back to the Legislature

“Last night I was proud to join my Assembly Minority colleagues in support of an amendment that would have ended the school mask mandate and restored legislative authority and checks and balances to our state government. New Yorkers around the state have grown frustrated and weary of executive overreach and governing via executive orders, mandates and regulations.

“The amendment would have put every member on the record to show their support for our constitutional process. Sadly, the Assembly Majority refused to consider the merits of the amendment, defeating it on a procedural basis. Their actions support and allow the continuation of unelected bureaucrats to usurp and circumvent the legislative process,” said Palmesano.

Last week, state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said during a budget hearing that the administration has no metric or timetable as to when the state’s school mask mandate would end.

During the Mental Hygiene budget hearing yesterday, Palmesano discussed with state Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie Sullivan the common concerns that have been voiced regularly relative to the negative mental-health impacts the mask mandate has had, particularly on younger students in schools and child care centers, especially on those with speech, learning and other sensory issues. Palmesano asked the commissioner if the Office of Mental Health has been engaged in studying and researching the impact mandatory masking has had on children’s overall mental health and well-being. Her answer was “no” they were not conducting a study on the issue and were waiting on data from “other” sources. 

“Given the fact that we are nearly two years into dealing with COVID and mask mandates on our children, and the continued concerns and worries we have heard from parents, teachers and children about the impact these masking mandates have had on children’s overall mental health, self-esteem and learning, I am shocked and disappointed our state’s own Office of Mental Health has failed make this issue a top priority. Unfortunately, the long-term mental health, learning and development of our children does not seem to be a priority with this administration and has taken a back seat in this discussion and debate,” Palmesano said.

The amendment, based on legislation introduced by Assemblyman Chris Tague (A8101), would prohibit state agencies from developing regulations that require individuals under the age of 18 to wear a mask in public places or while participating in recreational activities. The school mask mandate was struck down as unconstitutional and an executive overreach by the state Supreme Court because the governor’s emergency powers and the pandemic state of emergency had ended.

“This court ruling, coupled with the fact that we are no longer in a state of emergency and surrounding states such as Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Delaware have all ended their school mask mandates, clearly demonstrates it is time to return our children and classrooms back to a sense of normalcy. It is time to restore local control and decision making. It is certainly long past due for this governor to return to responsible governing by working with the Legislature on important issues instead of using an improper overreach of executive power, mandates and regulations. And, it is time to end the state mask mandate on our children in our schools and day care centers. 

“Last night, Assembly Majority lawmakers were given the chance to do just that and also restore our legislative authority, but they refused. 

“Gov. Hochul, stop governing through mandates, executive orders and regulations. Work with the Legislature and once and for all unmask our kids,” concluded Palmesano.