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Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office is researching whether a mask mandate issued earlier this month in Iowa City violates state law.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” Miller told reporters last week. “We do have a little time because there’s no penalty system or enforcement.”
Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague declared a civil emergency Aug. 19 and issued a citywide mask mandate. The order requires all individuals in Iowa City to wear a face covering in all indoor public settings, including stores, restaurants and schools, and in outdoor settings where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Under a state law passed in May, local municipalities may not require the “owner of real property to implement a policy relating to the use of facial coverings that is more stringent than a policy imposed by the state.” However, the Iowa City order does not require business owners to adopt a mask mandate — instead shifting the responsibility directly onto individuals.
Immediately after the order, Pat Garrett, spokesman for Gov. Kim Reynolds, said in a statement to reporters that the mandate was “against the law” and “not enforceable.”
The Iowa City order does not specify any enforcement measures for individuals who do not wear a mask in public. Miller said this gives his office more time to determine if the mandate violates state law. He did not give an estimate for when the state would decide whether to pursue legal action against Iowa City.
“With no penalties, that gives us a little more breathing room, I’d say,” he said.
This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.