MINOT, N.D. — Two political factors led to the North Dakota House of Representatives voting yesterday to ban mask mandates, be they implemented by local leaders or the governor.

At least some of the proponents of House Bill 1323, including primary sponsor Rep. Jeff Hoverson of Minot, a member of the secretive band of merry goofballs called the Bastiat Caucus, believe, with the same ardor that some lunatics apply the-earth-is-flat conspiracies, that masking doesn't reduce the spread of an airborne virus like COVID-19.

Others who supported the bill in the 50-40 vote simply don't like Gov. Doug Burgum, given his many political clashes with the Legislature, and view this bill as retribution against him despite Burgum's light-tough approach throughout the pandemic, generally, and his well-documented reticence to implement a mask mandate, specifically.

This is the key text of House Bill 1323, a ban on mask mandates, which was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Hoverson (R-Minot)
This is the key text of House Bill 1323, a ban on mask mandates, which was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Hoverson (R-Minot)

Hoverson, a Lutheran pastor, called mask mandates a "diabolical silliness" and suggested their establishment was the work of a conspiracy of "unelected, wealthy bureaucrats who are robbing our freedoms and perpetuating lies."

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I have spent nearly 20 years as a consistent advocate for the cause of liberty and limited government, and it saddens me to think of how tremendously that movement is hurt by unserious charlatans like Hoverson lumping masking in with actual examples of authoritarianism.

Yesterday was not a proud moment for the North Dakota House or the Republican majority there.

The efficacy of masking to help control something like the COVID-19 outbreak is undeniable for the literate, despite what some of your Facebook friends and their hastily Googled links to "proof" show.

The efficacy of government mandates as a way to promote widespread mask adoption is less certain.

The former is a question of science; the latter is a question of politics.

North Dakota's ugly numbers for active cases, hospitalizations and deaths took a nosedive after Burgum issued a mask mandate back in November. Did the one cause or the other, or did North Dakotans get serious about masking and social distancing after watching their neighbors die while our hospitals were overrun?

The correct answer can be "both" (that's what I believe), but there's no easy way to answer the question with certainty.

I believe, at a minimum, Burgum's mandate helped at a time when our state desperately needed it.

This brings us back to House Bill 1323 and the question it poses us: Should North Dakota's political leaders have something like a mask mandate in their toolbox to be used in situations like the COVID-19 outbreak?

The answer, undoubtedly, is "yes."

If you feel any political leader is misusing that sort of tool, the ballot box is always available as recourse.

I suspect Hoverson's bill will ultimately meet a quick demise in the Senate, where the Bastiat Caucus seemingly has fewer seats.

Let's hope I'm right.

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.