Decatur council passes mask ordinance after debate on fines

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DECATUR, Ala. – Decatur City Council met a second time to pass its mask ordinance and received assurance from the mayor that it would be signed into law, after making a compromise on the amount people could be fined for not complying.

Council members voted 4-1 to pass the ordinance. They initially approved the ordinance 3-2 Wednesday night, but council members said there was a procedural error in the process that meant they needed to meet again for another vote.

Councilman Chuck Ard changed his vote Friday morning from a no to yes. Councilwoman Kristi Hill was the lone vote against, saying she did not believe government should mandate wearing masks.

After the ordinance passed, Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling presented a list of proposed changes to the ordinance that he said would prevent him from vetoing it.

Those proposed changes required council to renew the ordinance every 30 days, raise the minimum age for wearing a mask from 2 to 8 years, encourage mask education and provide masks for people who don’t have one, and reduce the maximum fine for not wearing a mask to $25.

The ordinance passed by council Friday, as written, already stated council would review and seek guidance whether it requires amendment at least every 30 days. It also set a maximum fine of $500. Council members said they would determine local agencies to receive the funds, instead of money from fines going into city coffers.

Council President Paige Bibbee said Bowling’s mask request was already being handled by the county. She also questioned the mask age requirement, saying it could conflict with schools’ requirements.

Council members Charles Kirby and Billy Jackson pushed for the mayor to sign the bill sooner rather than later, saying any changes Bowling wanted to make could be amended at a later date. But Bowling pushed the fine issue, saying it would prevent him from signing the ordinance.

Council members and Bowling debated the fine amounts, and compromised with a fine system that began with a warning and increased maximum fines on subsequent violations. Council passed the fine change 4-1, with Hill again voting against.

Bowling said he would sign the ordinance with the change, which was the only one of his proposals council approved.

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