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Parson: Legislature may need to step in on school mask mandates

While the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has left mask mandates up to local school districts, the General Assembly may need to become involved in the future, Gov. Mike Parson said. 

“I’ve been a local control guy all along, and I’ve never changed on that, but I think the reality is you’ve got to realize what is the real effect on these children — whether they wear a mask or they don’t wear a mask — you’ve got to really see what the science is behind that,” Parson said. “I think the legislators need to be involved in that decision process when St. Louis County overstepped their boundaries, which I believe they did.”

“People are abusing their powers, and at some point, you’ve got to step in,” he continued.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt successfully sued to block the St. Louis County mandate from being enforced and has additional legal challenges pending against Jackson County, Kansas City, and St. Louis. 

Parson signed a bill in June prohibiting local officials from issuing public health orders or restrictions leading to the closure of schools, businesses, or places of worship beyond 30 days during a six-month period amid a state of emergency. Those orders could be extended by a majority vote of the local governing body. The language did not extend to local school boards, and the state has left mandates up to education officials. 

Parson appeared on Sunday’s episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” from the Missouri State Fair to discuss COVID-19, beef prices, and the state’s $400 million investment into rural broadband

“I think if we can get lighting in every house, we can get broadband in every house. This is a major step for our state, especially rural Missouri, to have that kind of investment,” Parson said. “There’s no reason we can’t compete as farmers and business owners. Just because you live in a small town you shouldn’t be punished because of that in today’s times and technology.”

Missouri State Fair

Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe, Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Mike Deering, and Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives Vice President of Communications Jim McCarty joined this week’s panel. The group discussed the fair’s return after pivoting to a smaller event last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There’s a lot of history to the fair. It’s important to so many people,” Wolfe said. “It’s about agriculture, that’s what this fair is about. It’s what drives our state — everybody is involved in agriculture, whether they know it or not. If you eat, you’re involved, and it may be a chance at the fair to get educated about that.”

Deering discussed the turbulence in the meat market, an issue Missouri leaders and congressional delegates are calling on the federal government to look into.

“You had the Tyson fire a couple of years ago, then you had the COVID pandemic — just two perfect storms that just really showed how volatile the food supply chain is especially in the beef industry,” Deering said. “We need market transparency; we need price discovery.” 

Watch the full episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” below, or listen to the podcast version here.