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State Senate votes to ban mask mandates (updated)

The Utah State Capitol
The Utah State Capitol

The Utah Senate on Tuesday voted to terminate the mask mandates in effect in Summit and Salt Lake counties. The joint resolution would have to be approved by the House to go into effect, though the timing of that vote is unclear.

The resolutionis sponsored by Sen. Daniel McKay, a Republican from Riverton. It specifically names the mask orders in Summit and Salt Lake counties, but extends to any mask order in the state.

"The Legislature of the state of Utah does not concede or confirm the validity of a state of emergency in Salt Lake County, Summit County or Salt Lake City,” the resolution says.

The resolution passed on party lines. It was supported by all Senate Republicans including the two who represent Summit County — Sens. John Johnson and Ron Winterton. Five of the six Senate Democrats voted against the measure. One Republican and one Democrat did not vote.

Johnson did not return messages from KPCW seeking comment.

Winterton said his decision came down to what he called the constitutional right to freedom of choice.

“When those choices are taken away or mandated, we've stepped on somebody's rights. And it's not the place of government to protect us health-wise," Winterton said. "The government should help provide facts for us. And I think that if you really look at it, that when people are given a choice, and they can look at it, most of the time they'll make a good choice.”

Winterton, whose district covers South Summit, rural eastern Summit County, the Snyderville Basin and Park City, said he’d received more positive comments about his vote from Summit County than negative.

Rep. Mike Kohler, a Republican from Midway, said the same thing — that “comments are coming overwhelmingly for the measure.”

Both houses of the Legislature have to approve a joint resolution for it to go into effect. A joint resolution does not require a governor’s signature and cannot be vetoed.

The measure passed through the Senate on the first day of the Legislature's general session. Senators suspended the body's rules to move the resolution immediately to a vote. There was not a public hearing.

Winterton said senators did not hold a public hearing because hearings had been held when S.B. 195 was passed last year. That bill, which Gov. Spencer Cox signed into law in March, granted the Legislature the power to use a joint resolution to terminate a local order of constraint like a mask mandate.

This legislation would terminate all mask mandates in place at the time of its passage. Originally, the resolution banned any future mask mandate from being enacted until April, but that language was removed.

This is a developing story.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.