AG stands by deadline for City of Columbia to rescind mask ordinance

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 7:01 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The battle continues between the Attorney General’s Office and the City of Columbia over the mayor’s mask ordinance.

Attorney General Alan Wilson says the mask mandate is illegal, but the city says they are protecting our children, the most vulnerable, and will fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

He’s standing by his original statement that the city needs to reverse its ordinance or face a lawsuit.

READ | Here are the temporary SC laws related to COVID-19, schools, masks and vaccines

Tuesday, the Attorney General sent a letter to City of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin stating their most recent ordinance requiring daycares, elementary, and middle schoolers to require masks is illegal.

“If you don’t like the law, call your lawmakers,” Alan Wilson said. “You don’t just say we’re going to ignore it.”

The Attorney General stated this isn’t about children’s health, it’s about following the law that the general assembly put into action, or you don’t receive the funds.

“The state appropriates the money, and the general assembly puts conditions on the money,” Wilson said. “You can’t accept the money and ignore the strings.”

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Wednesday, the City of Columbia sent a letter to the Attorney General stating the city is not in violation of the state law.

The letter states that the mayor’s office is fully prepared to hold their position and fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

The mayor said we fundamentally disagree with the attorney general’s opinion and the city government has the responsibility to preserve the lives, health, and welfare of the city and its citizens.

“It’s ridiculous we have state leadership fighting against a city to protect the most vulnerable,” Columbia Councilmember Howard Duvall said. “Why don’t they work with us? It’s their problem because they at the last minute put in a proviso that prevented them from protecting the children in our city.”

General Wilson gave Benjamin a deadline of Friday, August 13 to bring the city’s facemask ordinance into compliance with the law.

“I don’t want him to wait until Friday,” Columbia Councilmember Howard Duvall said. “If he has legal action, he needs to take it now. We’re not going to change our position, and he needs to get this to court so he can get kids masked up before school next week.”

Attorney General Wilson said he will take legal action if necessary.

Councilman Duvall said he believes they will win this case in court and other cities across South Carolina will follow suit.

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