The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday said it wouldn’t allow the state to enforce its ban on mask mandates by schools and other government bodies, while lawmakers clashed over efforts to prohibit businesses from requiring employees get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In a one-page order, justices denied the request by the state to stay the August decision blocking enforcement of Arkansas’ mandate ban.
More than 100 school districts and charter schools have approved mask requirements since the ruling against the law. The requirements cover more than half the state’s public school students.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the law but later said he regretted that decision, had separately asked the court to deny the request to stay the ruling.
“I am gratified with the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling allowing the decision of Judge Fox to stand,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “Judge Fox determined the law was unconstitutional and allowed local school districts to make their own decisions on masks.”
Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she was disappointed with the ruling.
“I will wholeheartedly defend Arkansas law as this appeal progresses,” she said in a statement.
The ruling came the same day the majority-Republican Senate voted to send eight bills limiting or prohibiting employer vaccine mandates back to a committee following complaints that they were rushed through a day earlier without public comment.