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Panel upholds Pennsylvania school mask rule after House GOP sought review

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The statewide mask order for schools does not need to be enacted through Pennsylvania’s system of passing governmental regulations as state House Republicans had sought, a panel decided on Thursday.

The Joint Committee on Documents, an obscure entity that includes of members of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, other executive branch officials and legislative leaders, voted 7-4 that Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam’s Aug. 31 did not have to be enacted as a regulation.

The committee meeting was required after the House Health Committee voted on party lines to request the review and asked the committee to take it up in a Sept. 14 letter from its Republican chairwoman..

The order applies to K-12 schools and child care facilities and is designed to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Had the committee determined the masking order needed to be promulgated as a regulation, it would have either ordered the Health Department to go through the complicated process of establishing it as a regulation within 180 days or to stop using the order at all.

The hearing came a day after a state court heard argument in a pair of lawsuits challenging the order, including one filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Centre County Republican. The status of Beam’s order as a regulation is also an issue in those cases.

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