House Democrats consider fining members $250 for not wearing masks

Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, testified at the hearing in opposition to the resolution, calling it “one of the worst ideas I have ever seen.”

Majority leader Ryan Winkler (Screenshot/MNHouseInfo YouTube)

State lawmakers who don’t wear masks could face fines and “ethics violations” under a proposal introduced in the Minnesota House.

The resolution states that on the third notice of violating the mask policy, $250 will be deducted from the offending member’s next paycheck.

Members will receive a notice after their first and second instances of not wearing a mask and will be asked to comply with the House’s mask policy.

Additionally, the resolution notes that “members may be subject to ethics violations if two members of the House so determine.” Employees of the House could be terminated from their jobs after violating the mask policy three times.

The House “will not tolerate retaliation, in any form” against people who report others for mask violations or “suspected mask violations,” according to the resolution.

In a Tuesday House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee hearing, Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said they have had “far from universal cooperation” with the mask policy.

“Members who are willing to [wear a mask] should be protected from the people who are not willing to do that,” Winkler said in defense of the resolution, which he said was created solely to “address people who will not comply with rules.”

Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, spoke at the hearing in opposition to the resolution, calling it “one of the worst ideas I have ever seen.”

Daudt said he does not know of anyone receiving more than one warning for not wearing a mask.

He argued that their time would be better spent on demanding information from the Walz administration on subjects like how many students are currently in school — which is an issue Daudt has been dealing with — rather than on a resolution that “unconstitutionally” takes money from members’ paychecks.

Daudt suggested amendments to the resolution that would remove the fines and disciplinary measures for staff and members. “Send letters. That’s fantastic,” he said.

Winkler, chair of the committee, responded to Republicans’ point that few cases have been traced back to state buildings.

“For practical purposes, it doesn’t matter what the numbers are. We have a policy requiring mask use. If we get to the point where we have an outbreak, it will have been too late to put in place a mask mandate,” Winkler said.

On Thursday, the resolution was not adopted by the committee, but Winkler clarified that it will be picked up again if and when the House receives five or more complaints regarding mask compliance.

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