House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republicans continue Maskcapades

Too many House Republicans are quick to preach personal responsibility, but clearly not so quick to take that responsibility — let alone model it.

House and Senate Democrats have a 100% vaccination rate against the coronavirus, according to a recent CNN survey. Republicans? Not so much. Only 95 out of 212 House Republicans — or 44.8% — told CNN they have been vaccinated. GOP senators, it seems, are smarter. At least 92% of Senate Republicans have been vaccinated, the CNN survey found.

Similarly, when Republican House of Representatives members last week proposed ending the chamber's mandate that lawmakers wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus while on the floor, the vote played out pretty much along party lines: 218 members rejected the idea and 210 voted to ditch the masks.

Also, in typical fashion, several GOP members modeled defiance to the rest of the nation that has been advised to keep masks on if we are unvaccinated.

Thumbing their noses at House rules, several GOP members were in the House chamber Tuesday night and Wednesday without masks — some even posing for selfies. At least three were fined for their actions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, called the foolishness what it was — "a sad stunt to distract from the reality: that the House Republicans are descending into pure chaos."

Pelosi's spokesman, Drew Hammill, argued that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was using the ditch-the-mask resolution in an effort to "stave off internal mutiny" over a separate matter, the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Hammill added: "If Minority Leader McCarthy wants to be maskless on the Floor of the House of Representatives, he should get to work vaccinating his Members."

Pelosi said later keeping the mask requirement in place is necessary because so many GOP members remain unvaccinated and have only themselves to blame for the ongoing floor mask mandate.

"It is unfortunate that a large number of people in the Congress have refused to be vaccinated or have been vaccinated and don't want to admit it."

"It's their personal business," she said. "But ... as the doctor said, until they are vaccinated, we cannot have meetings without masks ... We have a responsibility to make ... that the House of the Representatives chamber is not a petri dish because of the selfishness of some."

The clearly miffed Pelosi wasn't finished excoriating the recalcitrant Republicans: "I mean, we could come to a place where we say, if you don't want to wear a mask and if you're not vaccinated, don't even come to the floor," she said. "We have facilities up above in the Gallery where people can come to vote."


Police have a new tool you'll like

Too many police encounters in poor and minority communities turn sour when police target and ticket people for minor traffic violations like a non-working blinker or brake light or headlight.

Now the Chattanooga Police Department has a terrific new program designed not only to help ease the people and court burdens of those minor traffic violations but also to help repair the relationship between a community and its law enforcers.

The Lights On! program is a national initiative that Chattanooga has joined. It lets officers hand out a voucher for repairs up to $250 instead of a ticket. The vouchers may be redeemed for free repairs at specific participating auto service shops.

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Chattanooga police chief David Roddy speaks with members of the media during a news conference at the corner of S. Willow Street and E. 18th Street in Chattanooga on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

The vouchers are funded by the police department's citation fees, collected through the city's automated traffic enforcement citations. Those funds already are earmarked for traffic education, enforcement and awareness, which the police department said in a news statement is a "perfect use of these dollars."

Police Chief David Roddy announced the new effort on Wednesday and said the voucher program is the latest way the department is using its "Policing and Racial Equity dashboard" which challenges the department to analyze its data "through an equitable lens." The analysis found that the minor traffic citations mostly impacted communities of color, according to the a department statement.

A broken taillight or turn signal can sometimes mean choosing between a minor auto repair or buying groceries, and getting a minor traffic ticket can also spark a downward economic spiral that for some that can result in multiple tickets, confrontations with law enforcement, and even vehicle impoundment.

"The dashboard data drove conversations and analysis of where changes are needed and can be made by the Chattanooga Police Department as it relates to certain traffic citations," Roddy said in a statement. "Bringing Lights On! is one way the department is implementing change in order to better and more equitably serve the members of our community."

The program also is supported by donations. To learn more and to help, visit LightsOnUS.Org.