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House Working to Address Concerns Over Mask Mandate, James Says

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The House Health Committee on Tuesday voted to adopt a letter requesting a determination from the Commonwealth Joint Committee on Documents on whether the regulatory process and the Regulatory Review Act applies to the acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s indoor mask mandate for K-12 schools and child care centers.

The Joint Committee on Documents is made up of 11 members, including leaders from both chambers, appointees from the executive branch, the attorney general, and two members of the public.

As stated in Section 7.1 of the Pennsylvania Regulatory Review Act (Act 181 of 1982), if a standing committee or commission finds that a published or unpublished document has been unilaterally promulgated, then the committee can present the matter to the Joint Committee on Documents. The Joint Committee on Documents shall then determine whether the document should be promulgated as a regulation.

“My office has received numerous phone calls from parents who are disturbed by the mask mandate,” said Rep. Lee James (R-Venango/Butler).

“I stand with them in their concerns regarding this matter. Thank you to the House Health Committee for taking up this issue and calling the acting secretary’s and governor’s actions into question. I will continue to work with my colleagues to carry my constituents’ voices to Harrisburg on masking.”

Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) also supports the committee’s actions.

“Every agency is bound by law to follow an established process to implement a new regulation on the residents of Pennsylvania. If they do not, this process is the appropriate remedy to bring forth all of the legal arguments and issues and consider the validity of the executive action,” Cutler said.

“The governor’s administration should focus more on the education of our children and addressing the long-term consequences of his previous school shutdown and not policing who is and is not wearing a mask.”

The letter includes these key paragraphs:

“Only when an agency’s substantive regulations are properly enacted under the Commonwealth Documents Law, do they have the force and effect of law.

“In conclusion, the application and effect of the language in the Order shows the pronouncement to be restrictive, directive, and substantive—all of the characteristics of a regulation.

“Accordingly, the House Health Committee requests a determination by the Joint Committee on Documents that the order issued by the acting Secretary of Health on Aug. 31, 2021, is an order in the nature of a regulation and is subject to the regulatory process. Given that the Order is currently ‘effective,’ the Committee also respectfully asks that this determination be expedited.”

The full letter is available at https://bit.ly/2YPBZDR.

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