Masks could be sore spot as lawmakers return to State House

AUGUSTA — A dustup over masks could raise tensions as the Maine Legislature prepares to return to the State House, which has been closed since March 2020.

House Republican leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, speaks during a news conference on March 24, 2021 on the plaza between Cross State Office Building and the Maine State House. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The Legislative Council voted to reopen the State House effective Monday while requiring people to continue wearing masks.

Republicans argued that the mask requirement defied federal public health recommendations, the Bangor Daily News reported. Also, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is lifting mask mandates for most Mainers, effective Monday.

“What are you going to do when members of my caucus and possibly myself enter that building and we’re not wearing a mask?” House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, told House Speaker Ryan Fecteau.

Fecteau said it’s better to be safe than sorry, noting that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends masks for people who are not vaccinated or in crowds of people.

“I would be very regretful if a decision I made here at Legislative Council led to someone getting very ill,” said Fecteau, D-Biddeford.

During the pandemic, the Maine Legislature has been convening for floor sessions at the Augusta Civic Center.

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