Mask Mandate Update

February 9, 2022


One of the most highly charged political issues to emerge so far during the General Assembly Session is the statewide school mask mandate.  Governor Youngkin has endeavored to lift the mandate and to leave the choice to parents as to whether to send their children to school with a mask.  Yesterday, a large bipartisan majority approved an amendment to SB 739 that would prohibit local schoolboards from imposing a mask mandate on students or punishing students for not wearing a mask.  Republican Siobhan Dunnavant (Henrico County) and Democrat Chap Petersen (Fairfax City) joined forces and put together a coalition that advanced the bill with 29 votes in favor and only 9 in opposition.

While most legislation becomes effective on July 1, this bill will now go to the House of Delegates, where it is expected to gain swift approval.  The bill will then go to the Governor who is expected to offer an amendment that will make the law effective immediately.  This is called “an emergency clause.”  Bills with an emergency clause typically require a supermajority, however, if an emergency clause is added by a gubernatorial amendment, it only requires a majority vote by the House and Senate to approve it. 

This is good news for families across Virginia.  Even Democrat governors in New Jersey, Delaware, Oregon and Connecticut are lifting their statewide mask mandates, which may have had some impact upon the broad support the bill has received from Virginia Democrats.  The passage of this bill should put an end to the litigation filed by a handful of local school divisions challenging the Executive Order issued by Governor Youngkin in which he sought to lift the mask mandate through an exercise of his executive authority.  The legislation may be effective within the next two weeks.


Mark Obenshain