Are confusion and disorder the new benchmarks of politics these days?

CHAMBERSBURG —Whether it’s mask mandates or proposed nondiscrimination ordinances or any number of various other edicts, it appears that uncertainty and chaos may be what those in power are looking to create.

It seems to be the standard operating procedure in a lot of governmental agencies right now.

Take, for instance, the recent order that came down from the PA Department of Health mandating masks in schools. Governor Wolf had lost the ability to impose emergency orders last May in the ballot booths when Pennsylvanians stripped him of those powers.

And yet, here’s an order just the same — and how are the schools supposed to enforce it?

State Representative Rob Kauffman joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen on First News recently to talk about the overreach of a lot of policies.

Kauffman pointed out, “When President Biden said he didn’t think he had the authority to deal with evictions and foreclosures, but then he did it anyway. That’s what they do. They know they don’t have the power. They do it anyway and dare someone to try to stop them.”

Ryan added, “And then never be held accountable for doing that and slowing the process down and disobeying the laws.”

Kauffman said, “We as Republicans and conservatives, we generally follow the law. We look at the law, the constitution and generally attempt to follow it. These folks they say, oh no, we don’t have the power, but guess what? We’re going to do it anyway so go ahead and stop us. And that is exactly what this is. They don’t have the power and they are just daring someone to try to stop them.”

Ryan said, “Wolf doesn’t have the power. We neutered him there but he then empowered and energized this secretary of health.”

“Yes,” Kauffman confirmed. “But she’s the one that said she didn’t have the power before a Senate committee, so they know that this is stretching the bounds of anything they can and should be able to do. They know they don’t have any enforcement. There’s nobody out there to enforce this so they’re depending on the school districts and the teachers to be the enforcers.”

Jansen pointed out, “And what’s really weird is they said the districts are not permitted to restrain, use force or physically remove those who refuse to comply with wearing masks. How are they supposed to enforce it exactly? Lura Hanks, who’s the superintendent of Greencastle-Antrim, she had explained earlier. I give her credit. She’s better than some of the others in the area, willing to have a dialogue and not just say one side’s right and one side’s wrong. She knows there’s passion on both sides. She knows there’s good points on both sides and valid points on both sides. She said if we are going to do a mandate, we have to be able to enforce it…so that means we have to be sending your child home if they won’t (wear a mask) and it would be an unexcused absence. She says what are we solving then? Because if we end up depleting the school, then we’re back to not having in-person school. We’re trying to avoid that on both sides. Then they tell them we want you to do this but you can’t reply enforce it. What are they supposed to do?”

Kauffman said, “Don’t be fooled. Let’s get real. There are people, there are folks who sit on the Chambersburg Area School Board that are gleeful that they had this order come down and they can use this as an excuse to require masks and they will be overzealous in attempting to enforce it, I suspect. I suspect most of the teachers and folks will just want to say please, no, no I don’t want to deal with this. They don’t want to deal with this, the teachers, but there will be some folks who will be attempting to zealously enforce this. I don’t know what that looks like for the school districts.”

So what’s the recourse for a parent whose child is reprimanded for not wearing a mask?

Kauffman suggested, “I would start with the school district and then end up with an attorney because that’s where these challenges will be.”

“The school board just loves those attorneys,” Ryan scoffed.

Jansen added, “The problem is…Wolf threw in a hint that there could be other consequences and nobody knows what that means. Some are interpreting that are you going to take money away from the school if they don’t manage to actually comply with this? But then you don’t give them a way to comply with it because they can’t even send a kid home if they’re not wearing a mask and then parents will probably sue, so we’re looking at liability on the other side. What the heck?”

Kauffman said, “And there are exclusions. There are sample exclusion forms all over social media. I would encourage you to search for one and fill out that exclusion form if you believe you qualify for an exclusion.”

Then on the other side of the spectrum, Kauffman pointed out a story he had heard about PennDOT employees being required to wear masks when they work outside.

Kauffman said, “They’re wearing masks because they’re PennDOT employees and I guess that the PennDOT employees have to follow the governor’s mask guidance or they get in trouble. I heard a story of PennDOT guys who were working out in the rural area and I believe it was here in Franklin County. We’re talking like out towards the mountain. There were a few guys around. I don’t think they were masked up. They got a complaint from a passerby that called in a complaint to PennDOT. I believe that’s how it was. I don’t want to get it wrong but they called in a complaint to PennDOT that these folks weren’t masked up.”

“Karen,” Ryan suggested.

“Where’s the leadership, Rob?” Jansen asked. “There’s no leadership here. This is chaos. This is just we’re going to throw uncertainty at everybody.”

“Absolutely,” Kauffman agreed. “They bank on the uncertainty and the question out there for people to comply. They expect people to comply. This is an era where, very frankly, I would encourage and tell people you certainly need to stand up for your rights at this point.”

Jansen said, “I see people in leadership who are adding uncertainty into the mix. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission…we know we have one of the most liberal, progressive governors in the country. When he took office, he changed the makeup of that board. They are now very far leftist progressives. They’re actually telling the rest of the state how we have to define gender. They don’t have the authority to do that. There’s a lot of uncertainty there and that’s intimidation and fear and that’s the problem here.”

Kauffman had been contacted by a business owner asking what would happen in Chambersburg if the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance for the LGBTQ+ community is adopted. The business owner posed his questions to Chambersburg Borough Council. He’s on his fourth try at getting an answer.

Kauffman said, “They will not answer it. They answer it by saying well we do not have this ordinance in Chambersburg yet. No joke. That’s what we’re trying to figure out. Would this kind of issue be dealt with by this commission if we did have the ordinance? But they won’t answer it. You have to wait until you have this to determine what would be addressed by this organization. When you talk about the Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg, what a debacle. They are essentially a progressive organization within commonwealth government that they think they have these powers and they make it up as they go along. The borough in passing this ordinance, they supposedly want the state legislators to give the Human Relations Commission more power to deal with LGBTQ+ issues in Pennsylvania. That is not what Pennsylvanians are asking for.”