Seven representatives stripped of committee appointments after breaking state house mask rules

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 6:20 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WAGM) - Seven Republican Representatives have been removed from their committee appointments after walking into the State House without their masks on.

The House of Representatives returned to the state house Monday, the same day masking was dropped in Maine. The session is nearing its end, and Rep. Johansen said his committee is done for the year. The bipartisan Legislative Council decided to maintain masks in shared spaces within the State House due to the close quarters and various members’ health conditions, but the requirement does not apply to partisan offices says Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau.

The seven Republican representatives walked into the state house without their masks on, accompanied by a cameraman. When asked to stop by capitol officers, they continued on.

Speaker Ryan Fecteau stripped the seven representatives of their committee appointments. Representative Chris Johansen of Monticello was one of the representatives who chose to not wear a mask. He was removed from his spot on the Committee of Environmental and Natural Resources

“He had nothing else he could do to us. The day he took my committee away, that committee was done for the year anyway,” said Johansen.

“I decided to remove them from their committee assignments because I felt that was a just consequence for purposely violating the COVID-19 policy,” said Fecteau.

Johansen says the mask rule is another example of why southern and northern Maine shouldn’t be held to the same rules during the pandemic as the two areas experience COVID differently. He says some rural representatives come into the offices for better connection and wifi and he feels the mask rule impacts these representatives differently.

Fecteau says he understands mask fatigue, but wants to deliver the message that not following the rules comes with consequences.

Johansen says there are plans for another anti-masking demonstration when the State House opens to everyone next week.

“We’re going back in, but this time there’ll be 60 of us.”

Johansen said he can’t speak for all the House republicans, but he at least, is not planning to wear a mask.

After the incident yesterday, Speaker Fecteau sent an email to his colleagues in the legislature.

“I am simply asking you to demonstrate a respect for our shared workplace. Yes, it is a workplace with Democrats and Republicans and Independents who have different ideas and positions on a range of issues. But it is also a workplace with hundreds of people who are there to do a job without affiliation to a party or cause,” he wrote in the email.

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