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Maine Legislative Leaders Spar Over Face Coverings

Ryan Fecteau
Robert F. Bukaty
Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, addresses the Legislature, Wednesday, March 10, 2021, at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine.

Republicans on the legislative council are once again challenging the mask requirement in place at the State House, and the issue could disrupt the session when lawmakers return next Wednesday.

For over a year, the public has been banned from the State House, and face coverings have been required for those allowed into the building. Earlier this week, seven Republican House members violated the rule and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau punished them by removing them from their committee assignments. GOP leaders Thursday brought a motion to revisit the requirement, which Fecteau ruled out of order, and warned the seven violators to follow the rules going forward.

“Those members will not be reassigned to their committees unless they decide to comply with what legislative council adopted," Fecteau said.

Republican leaders, meanwhile, predict that many in their party will not wear a face covering when the legislature convenes at the State House next week. They also object to Fecteau calling the effort a political stunt.

“You know, unfortunately I am going to have to issue with your questioning of the motives of my caucus. Describing the defense of civil liberties and their rights to speak for their constituents is nowhere near the idea of fanfare,” said Republican Rep. Joel Stekis of Canaan.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.