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 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.

The contradictory guidance will only confuse Mainers with the executive branch and legislative branch adopting competing rules on masks, Senate Republicans said Friday.

“The state needs to speak with one voice and its statements regarding the pandemic must be based on science. The governor made her decision based on the latest science from the U.S. CDC and the Legislature should follow that same path,” Jeff Timberlake, Senate Republican leader, said Friday.

During the council meeting, House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, suggested to House Speaker Ryan Fecteau that some in her caucus might ignore the mask requirement.

“What are you going to do when members of my caucus and possibly myself enter that building and we’re not wearing a mask?” she said.

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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