Scott Tibbs

Mask mandates and the Tenth Amendment

By Scott Tibbs, November 5, 2021

Bloomington Transit requires masking on city buses, which is expected despite the fact that use of public transit does not correspond with increased risk of transmission of COVID-19. But local officials want to feel they are "doing something" about the virus, and a mask mandate is something that provides few drawbacks even if the actual impact is small. I may roll my eyes, but I do not have a problem with it.

But while I am not against mask mandates on city buses, I am against the federal government exceeding its enumerated powers under the United States Constitution to mandate masks on every municipal bus system in the entire country. Neither the President nor the Transportation Security Administration has the constitutional authority to mandate masks on city bus systems.

This is not a small issue, and it does not matter that the city of Bloomington would have mandated masks on public transit no matter what the federal government did. A national mask mandate on all public transit - including intra-city transit that does not cross state lines - is another in a long line of intrusions by the federal government. One hundred years ago, people would have been horrified by the President ordering people to "get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do."

The ever-expanding power of the federal government (and the President legislating by executive order with barely a peep from the legislative branch) is why presidential elections are viewed by so many people as world-ending events. No election should be a "Flight 93 election" because the vast majority of policy should be made at the state and local level. Having these decisions made locally - where elected officials are closer to the people and more directly accountable to us - would greatly reduce the anger and fear that comes with every federal election. The President should be irrelevant to our daily lives.

The issue is not whether a mask mandate on public transit is good policy. The issue is respect for the rule of law. Our local authorities should stand up and say "no" to these kinds of intrusions by the federal government. Even if they were going to implement the same policy anyway, Bloomington Transit should have refused to display any federal signs and the Mayor and City Council should have backed them up. Until we have the lesser magistrate start saying "no" to these things, federal overreach will continue.

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