JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — During committee hearings this week, most state representatives and guests donned face coverings of some sort — but a few did not. State Rep. Peter Merideth wants to implement a new House rule that would require masks to be worn inside the Capitol.
“Under existing House rules, I can be kicked out of the chamber for refusing to wear a tie, but lawmakers face no consequence for endangering lives by roaming the crowded House floor without a mask,” Merideth said. “With the worst public health crisis in a century still raging and no end in sight, the House must demonstrate common sense and make lives at least as important as enforcing the dress code.”
The rule established in HR 6640 would apply to representatives, staff members, and guests of the House at all times except when eating or drinking. Those with health conditions or disabilities who would be harmed by wearing masks would be excluded.
Neither chamber currently requires the use of masks in any area of the Capitol.
The St. Louis Democrat pointed to Monday’s meeting of the House General Laws Committee when the chairman asked a witness to remove his hat out of respect but said nothing about members of the committee who chose to forgo face masks.
“Casually endangering the lives of everyone in the room and their families is a far more serious act of disrespect and disregard for the well-being of others, yet there was nary a peep from the chairman,” Merideth said. “But if you show up wearing a hat, that won’t be tolerated.”
When asked about the proposal during Tuesday’s press briefing, Gov. Mike Parson said he would let the legislature decide the rules for their members.
“I think the legislature needs to make the decision on whether they’re going to mandate it in the Capitol or not for their own bodies,” Parson said. “That’s up to them; if they want to mandate their own House to do that, their own Senate, they’re welcome to do that. I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
Merideth responded to the comments on social media, saying Parson was “yet again shirking any responsibility or leadership whatsoever when it comes to keeping each other and our communities safe in a pandemic.”
Parson and Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams met with White Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx at the Capitol Tuesday. Birx praised Missouri’s use of its “box in” testing strategy and recommended the use of masks, as well as other cleanliness practices.
Merideth’s resolution was referred to the committee on Consent and House Procedures. A hearing is not yet scheduled.
The Missouri Legislature has been called back to Jefferson City to address a variety of measures put forth by Parson related to violent crime in the state. The House is set to meet in full on Aug. 24.