NC House votes not to concur with bill reinstating mask restrictions

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina House of Representatives voted Wednesday not to concur with the Senate on a bill that would reinstate mask restrictions in North Carolina after some Republican members publicly criticized the proposal.

The bill, titled “Unmasking Mobs and Criminals,” passed the Senate last week on a 30-15 party-line vote.

PREVIOUS: NC Senate committee approves bill restricting masks

It would eliminate an exception to the state’s ban on masking that’s been in place since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and has allowed people to wear masks for health and safety reasons.

Republicans in the Senate pushed to eliminate that exception in response to incidents such as the recent protests on college campuses where some people have worn masks to conceal their identities to commit crimes.

While officials at the state Dept. of Health and Human Services said they don’t believe it would open people up to prosecution if they continue to wear masks for their health, they did say it would lead to “misunderstanding” among the public and potentially harassment.

“This bill as written infringes on our constitutional First Amendment rights and puts at risk the health and safety of our community,” said Rep. Sarah Crawford (D-Wake).

CBS 17 attempted to ask Sen. Buck Newton (R-Wilson), who led the effort to pass the bill in the Senate, about the issue Tuesday but he declined to comment. 

During floor debate last week, he said, “I smell politics on the other side of the aisle when they’re scaring people to death about a bill that is only going to criminalize people who are trying to hide their identity.”

Following Wednesday’s vote a conference committee comprised of members of the House and Senate will meet to try to reach a compromise on the bill.

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