Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Constitutional – One-Subject Rule – Municipal – Schools & School Boards – Mask Mandate

By: S.C. Lawyers Weekly staff//September 8, 2021

Constitutional – One-Subject Rule – Municipal – Schools & School Boards – Mask Mandate

By: S.C. Lawyers Weekly staff//September 8, 2021

In an appropriations act, the General Assembly did not violate the one-subject rule when it prohibited the expenditure of state funds on mask mandates. The respondent-city’s mask mandate violates the appropriations act because it requires school personnel—who are paid at least in part with funds appropriated in the General Assembly’s appropriations act—to enforce the mandate.

The General Assembly’s act (Proviso 1.108) preempts the contrary ordinances of the city. We uphold Proviso 1.108 and declare void the city’s ordinances insofar as they purport to impose a mask mandate in K-12 public schools.

The wisdom or efficacy of mandating school children to wear facemasks to combat the coronavirus is not before us. The policy of the state legislature to leave to parents the masking decision is most assuredly well within the broad parameters of the legislature’s constitutional boundaries.

The Home Rule doctrine in no manner serves as a license for local governments to countermand a legislative enactment by the General Assembly. A declaration of an emergency does not alter this settled principle; otherwise, local governments could arbitrarily and unilaterally ignore, and effectively overrule, legislative enactments by the General Assembly.


(James, J.): This court is not called upon to declare what the “right science” is or to declare whether the proviso reflects either sound public health policy or a complete lack of common sense on the part of the General Assembly. Differing viewpoints and the sad state of public debate do not affect our decision-making. In spite of the explosion of public opinion on masks and mask mandates and the sometimes unfortunate manner in which these opinions are expressed, our focus and our authority are limited to applying the law.


(Hearn, J.): While I wholeheartedly agree with the result, I feel the majority unnecessarily departs from the stated goal of remaining neutral on the parties’ policy decisions.

Proviso 1.108 does not prohibit mask mandates in K-12 schools; rather it says that this year’s appropriated funds must not be used to implement or enforce such a mandate.

The majority characterizes the debate as one between parental choice and government mandates. Nowhere in the appropriations act is the term “parental choice,” the attorney general mentions the concept only once, and yet the majority uses the term five times. This court should not, through its language, construct a binary which puts an unnecessary political gloss on the issue before the court.

Wilson v. City of Columbia (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-053-21, 14 pp.) (John Kittredge, J.) (George James, J, concurring) (Kaye Hearn, J., joined by Donald Beatty, C.J., concurring in result only) Original jurisdiction. Alan Wilson, Robert Cook and Emory Smith for petitioner; Teresa Knox, Patrick Wight, Richard Harpootlian and Christopher Philip Kenney for respondent; Allen Nickles, Eric Shytle, James Goldin, Wilbur Johnson, Julia Copeland, Kathleen Monroe, Elizabeth McLean and Danny Crowe for amici curiae. S.C. S. Ct.

Business Law

See all Business Law News


See all Commentary


How Is My Site?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...