School Mask Mandates – Who are the True Conservatives?

By Paul Gable

This week’s controversy about whether to require students, teachers and staff to wear masks in public schools gave us another chance to see who are the real conservative political leaders and who are the politicians that only give voice to conservatism to get elected.

Put another way, who truly promotes individual liberty and limiting government overreach and who doesn’t?

The longest serving legislative member in Horry County, Sen. Luke Rankin, joined forces with Democrats throughout the state and Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman to call for the repeal of a state budget proviso that currently makes it illegal for local school boards to require masks to be worn in schools.

What makes this extremely absurd is it’s only two months since the proviso became law with the passing of the state budget and both passing the proviso and repealing it are examples of government overreach by the state legislature.

Government overreach by the state legislature is almost a requirement in a General Assembly filled with mostly pseudo-conservative politicians who enjoy exercising power over others. And many in the Horry County legislative delegation excel at government overreach by dictating to local governments and citizens.

At the very most, decisions on whether students should be required to wear masks in school should be left to the local governing school board, but one which should be exercised only in extreme circumstances. The decision on whether a child wears a mask to school or not should be left to the parents of the child as a normal course of action. Otherwise, what does individual liberty mean?

The controversy over masks quickly entered the political discussion in the 7th Congressional District race.

School Board Chairman Ken Richardson has said repeatedly in media reports that state law currently forbids school boards from legislating masking requirements and that he believes it is a decision that should be left to the parents.

Former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride took Rankin to task in a video rebuttal to Rankin’s call for a mask mandate. In that rebuttal, McBride said he believes the decision to wear a mask to school or not should be left to the parents.

State Rep. Russell Fry, who launched his campaign declaring he was a true conservative Republican, has been strangely quiet on the issue.

However, Fry has not been timid about being in the middle of government overreach by the General Assembly on other issues.

When Horry County Council cancelled a contract with the S. C. Department of Transportation in 2019 requiring county funding for Interstate 73, Fry and his pseudo-conservative colleagues in the House, Alan Clemmons, Heather Crawford and Tim McGinnis, quickly introduced a bill in the General Assembly requiring hospitality fees collected countywide to be spent on interstate projects only.

None of the four, Fry, Clemmons, Crawford nor McGinnis, ever secured any state funding for I-73, but they were all perfectly willing to dictate that Horry County must spend hospitality fee revenue on a new federal highway project rather than allow the county to determine how best to spend hospitality fee revenue on current local infrastructure needs.

Fortunately for county citizens and local governments, that bill never made it out of committee. However, it is an example how the pseudo-conservatives in the local legislative delegation are quick to act for the local special interests who want the highway built for personal benefit while ignoring the needs of the citizens of the county in general.

Richardson, McBride and Fry are all announced candidates challenging incumbent Tom Rice for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District. During the intervening period until the June 2022 primary, Republican voters should pay attention to the track records of candidates if they want to send a true conservative to Washington.

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