Story updated to include statement from State Senator Lois Kolkhorst.

State Representative Ben Leman and State Senator Lois Kolkhorst are not in favor of mandatory mask orders, but do support asking Texans to voluntarily wear masks where appropriate.

State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) (left) and State Representative Ben Leman (R-Anderson) speak at a Legislative Wrap-Up Forum in August 2019 at Blinn College in Brenham.

In a Facebook post last week, Leman said he does not support a mandate that “criminalizes citizens for not wearing a mask”, saying the government should instead focus on educating the public on the wearing of masks.

Kolkhorst, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, shared similar sentiments in a statement to KWHI this (Monday) afternoon, saying from a policy perspective that she agrees with the usefulness of masks, but feels “there is a time and place for face coverings”.

Leman said he has been “heartbroken” to see businesses struggling because of the COVID-19 response, adding in his opinion that forcing these mandates onto businesses “feels like adding insult to injury”.  He said the change in habits caused by the coronavirus has already led numerous businesses to have to “make the toughest calls an employer can make”.

Kolkhorst said, instead of mandatory orders, the state should ask citizens to voluntarily wear them when they feel it is suitable, particularly at public gatherings where social distancing is not possible.  She said, as a government, she feels emphasis should be put on personal responsibility during the COVID-19 response, rather than “requiring our already burdened businesses or law enforcement to enforce a mandatory mask ordinance on the public”.

Leman said he appreciates the efforts of some local officials to either not enforce or push back against the statewide mandates set forth by Governor Greg Abbott, specifically naming Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, who issued a blanket order allowing his constituents to circumvent the limit on public gatherings.  He said he feels it is “pretty clear that people are tired of the government telling them what to do”.

Kolkhorst said, with Texas being a large state, she would prefer to see “a more targeted approach that allows for regional solutions and fewer restrictions to our personal freedoms”.

Leman asked the public to wear masks, stay home when possible, and be smart when going out.  He said it seems like “common sense” that masks do limit the chance of asymptomatic patients unknowingly spreading the virus, but citizens should not need a doctor’s note if they choose not to wear a mask.


Full statement below from State Representative Ben Leman:

Many of you have reached out and asked how I feel about mandates for wearing a mask. I do not support a mandate that criminalizes citizens for not wearing a mask. I do, however, support asking Texans to voluntarily wear a mask where appropriate. As a representative for seven rural counties, I have been heartbroken to see so many businesses crippled by the COVID response. Pushing these mask mandates onto businesses feels like adding insult to injury. These are largely family-owned businesses, some of which have been around longer than I have been alive. Our change in habits has already forced many more businesses to make the toughest calls an employer can make. As these businesses claw their way back — eroding the unemployment rate — the government should be working harder to educate the public.

Several law enforcement agencies are choosing not to enforce based on the order’s language. I appreciate County Judge Mark Keough in nearby Montgomery County giving a blanket order allowing his constituents to circumvent the limit on public gatherings.

I understand and share your frustrations. It’s pretty clear that people are tired of the government telling them what to do. And since we are also known as the Friendship State, I’d like to take a different approach.

As your friend and State Representative, I’m asking you to wear a mask when appropriate. No, you shouldn’t need a note from a doctor. Stay home if possible; and be smart if you have to go out.

It seems like common sense that wearing a mask does limit your ability to unknowingly spread the virus if you are asymptomatic. If covering your mouth when you cough during cold season is acceptable, then it is reasonable to think that masks can dramatically limit the spread of airborne germs and viral contagions like COVID.

Businesses already face a tough road forward as they find safe ways to bring employees back and resume normal business. Many have already adapted, but online commerce is still new to many rural communities.


Full statement below from State Senator Lois Kolkhorst:

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human services, I am keenly aware of the ongoing debate over the response to COVID-19.  From a policy perspective, I do agree with the usefulness of masks but I do not support a mask mandate that seeks to criminalize people for not wearing one.  

There is a time and place for face coverings, and we should be asking Texans to voluntarily wear them when they feel it is appropriate, for instance at public gatherings when social distancing is not possible.   Personally I have at times worn a mask when I am in an enclosed space out of respect for others.  

As a government, I feel we should be stressing personal responsibility in the COVID response, rather than requiring our already burdened businesses or law enforcement to enforce a mandatory mask ordinance on the public.  Texas is a large state and I would prefer to see a more targeted approach that allows for regional solutions and fewer restrictions to our personal freedoms. 

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry


  1. Some people only respond to a an order if it means a financial punishment. Gov said 1st offense a warning,2nd a $250 fine. Sadly that is not being enforced in our town/county. What happens when a store employee tells some no mask no entry? The person gets made and attacks said employee or God forbid pulls a knife or gun. The big stores Wal-Mart,HEB Brookshire Bros should hire off duty officers to enforce the mask order. The WCSO AND the BPD because they do not want to do the mounds of paperwork this would create. JUST REMEMBER THEY R FOLLOWING ORDERS OF THE HIGHER UPS.


  3. Classic political answer to a life and death situation. Ride the fence, play both sides against the middle. Certainly not leadership! We have seemingly reached the point where the people need to do what’s right. The politicians can’t, or won’t for fear of not getting elected again.
    It’s a full blown pandemic, and the news is still, to wear or not wear a mask! Really?

  4. Rights? Rights are earned by taking responsibility, you know , like we are supposed to be teaching children. Looks like many missed out on that education. Good thing we had better, more respectful and unselfish citizens in this country during the years of rampant polio and small pox. . The leaders advised and majority obeyed. THAT is what made “ the good ole days good” respect and consideration for fellow citizens. Welcome to the century of “ me and the dollar first”.

    1. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    2. Lets say the good old days were in the 50’s:
      -Over 60% of the population went to Church, I think we’re somewhere around half that now.
      -We prayed in schools, not the individual but the entire school at once to God, the one and only God of Christianity
      -We insisted that nearly everything be made in the US. Wealth belonged in the US supporting Americans and if you wanted to help the needy, which you should as a Christian, we had the good fortune to do it here and abroad. But it was not forced through legislation or treaty.
      -Polio, despite being most horrible to children, we still sent our kids to school. A school where they still sang God Bless America. I go to Church and I notice that the older Generations know that song well. And look at you like you should know it too from memory. I didn’t know why until they said they sang in public school everyday.
      -We put communists in jail or sent them packing, we didn’t allow them to openly exist as they tended to upend order and destroy things, just like ANTIFA and BLM does now.
      -We didn’t have illegal immigrants flooding our border because by law, and by overwhelming popularity, we couldn’t and wouldn’t. They thought of it was just dumb.
      -One job was enough to provide for a family.
      -Safety culture did not exist, lap belts were good enough and we pushed those off to the side as they got in the way of a comfortable ride, we did not have helmets to ride a back or need them in anyway. We had a beer driving home from work, in the open with the windows down.
      -Kids were everywhere, by themselves with friends, having fun.

      So bring all that back and I’ll gladly put on a mask simply because I’m asked. Because I can trust my neighbor and leaders again because I know we’re all in it together and of the same mind and culture. I don’t trust anymore because we don’t do any of the above that I mentioned.

      So you should be glad its just masks we renounce.

      1. Gosh Smitty…just reading your statements took me back to yesteryear. What a great feeling for a fleeting moment. I’ll go back & re-read for the pleasure of thinking how wonderful those days were. Thank you for a reminder of a much happier day!

    3. We have become a very selfish and spoiled society. Nothing like the culture our parents lived in and gave to us. Our state and country has proven that not only will they not follow request but that many of them do not have or care about common sense or their neighbor. Other countries have been successful and we have been completely opposite. People lose sight of the ultimate prize by focusing to much on their immediate gratification. These decisions should be based on science and not political gain. Our govt has made everything so decisive we can’t make any gains. The thing that’s going to save us from COVID is working together and being multi-disciplinary in our approach. A concept that seems foreign to our present administration.

      1. Roger Ross: plain and simple…

        Not all of us can wear masks due to asthma or health issues. We breathe our water as well as CO2, creating a breeding ground for illness to multiply. We then breathe it in.

        By being FORCED to wear them most places – as businesses actually will NOT OBEY that exemption in Abbott’s orders…

        My risk for COVID just skyrocketed and with this being RESPIRATORY in execution, and me having asthma, I could easily be put in the hospital.

        So if you’re going to say humans are selfish? – fine.

        But kindly stop saying only non-mask wearers are.

        Your ignorance put my chances way up now. *slow clap*

        1. My family has Asthma and COPD we have no problem wearing mask you just have to get used to them. How can our health care providers do it all the time and they are fine? They even recommend those of us with these issues to wear a mask to protect ourselves and are loved ones.

    4. Statements like this terrify me! The implication that basic human rights are somehow earned and conversely could be taken away goes against what this great country has stood for during over 200 years of our republic. I am not exactly an old timer but I am not far from it. I have been around long enough to see many things in our country and I am watching people mindlessly being willing to completely through away the rights that many have fought and died for in the name of fear of a virus. I will wear my mask out of respect, not because I believe it has anything at all to do with stopping the virus, but to make those fearful souls out there less afraid. However, the idea that mandating criminal penalties if we don’t wear the current politically correct apparel is not my idea of freedom. This is not a “me and the dollar first mentality, but it is a time when we need to remember who we are, what we should stand for, and what makes our country different than failed regimes of the past.

  5. You know what is NOT tepid,
    A) the spike in testing due to symptoms leading to testing shortages.
    B) the spike in hospitalization leading to overcrowded hospitals / ERs. and shortages of PPE.
    C) the spike in critically ill patients leading to overrun ICU beds.
    D) the spike in deaths leading on Texas towns needing to order extra body bags and temporary morgue trailers.
    E) the spike in healthcare workers that are becoming ill from physical fatigue of dealing with HOT full body PPE during 8 to 12 hour shifts. The emotional pain of losing patients and the personal anguish of dealing with COVID when personally infected.
    F) the passion of those superspreaders at Hohlt Park because I’m sure they did not think masks were ‘appropriate.’ (what does ‘appropriate’ even mean? ) Does the virus avoid appropriate people?
    G) the anger of Texans when Governor Abbott locks down Texas again. It was studied and mask usage is better that lock down. Look at Japan. They wear masks and are FREE to ride the subway and shop. They have never locked down. Shame on us Americans that value liberty to not wear a mask more than their neighbor. Shame on the politicians that are pandering us back into another lockdown or worse prolonged illness and carnage.
    read: https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswestfall/2020/05/12/new-study-shows-80-percent-decrease-in-covid-19-cases/#407c5df6f59f

    1. We shouldn’t have closed down to begin with.

      Plus if you read more than a financial magazine you’d find out these are grossly exaggerated. And this count is grossly filled with errors it udd SSDjt funny.

      Houston had the strictest mask rules and they had a HUGE spike. Do, I don’t buy the mask argument.

      If anything, forcing those with asthma or other health issues to wear a mask : and businesses won’t honor the exemption…

      You increased cases.

  6. Hold up The same senator that came down on a local Nursing home for their lack of PPE and their residents literally DYING from COVID is AGAINST mandatory masks? Explain to me how this makes sense? The masks are to help prevent the spread and keep other’s healthy and safe. People who choose not to wear them are literally putting their own selfish comfort ABOVE the health and safety of those they come in contact with. AND she is against that! It is a mandate BECAUSE there are people who choose to put others in harms way just because they don’t want to be uncomfortable! How can you get mad at someone for not wearing PPE to prevent the spread and yet be for them not wearing it at the same time. These are some serious mind gymnastics here people. Wear a mask or please stay home and utilize curbside and delivery services.

    1. Well said and completely agree! It doesn’t make sense. Now there’s another nursing home with confirmed cases. Prayers for them and they’re recovery.

    2. I think you need to do some research. Over 600,000 people die each year from heart disease , cancer , etc yet we don’t shut down our whole country because of it , wake up !!! Its not about your safety , never was ! If your precious masks work so well then why isn’t the whole country open ? ? ? Have you not seen how they are cooking the number of positive cases ? Florida just had numerous labs reporting every one of the labs doing the testing giving 100% positive test results , statistically impossible ! The main stream media constantly like to promote fear , Fauci in march said you shouldn’t wear masks . Have you noticed your not hearing about the recoveries and not as much about deaths , just the numbers of positive cases skyrocketing ? Have you not noticed that during the protests/riots that not ONE news report about covid was on the TV. Did you notice that Houston mayor Turner tweeted that the rise in cases should NOT be attributed to the funeral and protests ? Fauci the expert never said a WORD about masks during the protests . People eat junk , don’t exercise , smoke , drink and want to criticize people who don’t wear a mask because they don’t care about the people who don’t care about themselves ? People need to wake up and do their own research because very little if anything at all on main stream media is the truth ! Critical thinking seems to be a thing of the past nowadays . Sad !

  7. What a ridiculous stance. Let’s not mandate it, but highly encourage it instead.

    What happens when people choose not to wear one, which you KNOW they will choose? Then public safety goes out the door, because someone felt “threatened” being forced to wear one?

    Look, people aren’t wearing masks when it’s voluntary. They also speed when they’re are no limits. So we have laws & mandates. It’s not that big a deal. WEAR. YOUR. MASK.

    There’s a reason we’re the ONLY MAJOR COUNTRY with climbing rates.

  8. Wow, that’s sad. So continue to leave it up to everyone to decide when it’s appropriate? Businesses will continue to struggle if masks aren’t worn. What happens when someone’s exposed at a business…they shut down for 2 weeks. What will happen once school starts and those kids begin exposing everyone? Our hospitals and clinics are OVERWORKED and OVERWHELMED because people will not follow the recommendations given to keep themselves and others safe. The opportunity for “freedom and rights” was given and look where we are now. If we follow the mandatory mask order and follow social distancing our numbers will improve. That’s the only way! It was already tried the other way and that obviously did not work out. Texas is ranked NUMBER 4 in the US, that’s sad.

    1. At latest report, we have 2 people hospitalized. Is that overwhelmed? I hope not.

      1. I would be overwhelmed, big time if it was one of my loved ones. You are ignoring the many that have died at home from COVID. You are also ignoring the many who are quarantined because of a positive test. Get your head out of the sand and quit watching FOX news.

      2. There’s more to clinics and hospitals than just inpatient numbers. The ER, testing sites, the lab, imaging department, etc. Maybe there aren’t many people hospitalized, but there’s a good 150 people sick in our community that need care and attention plus everyone else that seeks routine care and need other emergent services. I hope they all recover at home and do not get added to the hospitalization list.

    2. Has ANYONE taken into consideration that Texas is the biggest state in the union and therefore we would probably have more positive cases. It’s been proven the CDC numbers we are feed are wrong by at least 50% over the actual numbers. Please just use common sense when outside and our local businesses MAY survive.

      1. Does that mean Texas should lead in deaths because of how large it is? We’re bigger than New York and they have almost double the amount of cases and 30,000 more deaths. There’s other resources besides CDC to get information and statistics from. Texas should be on the map for showing improvement considering its size…let’s not make excuses.

  9. I appreciate that our representatives share the same love for our freedoms as I do! What great Texans! Will continue to pray for them as they continue navigating this difficult time. Thank you for being the voice of your constituents. We can always count on y’all.

    1. I’m glad you keeping your freedom But do you think it right for someone to infect others because of being macho. Wake up people if mandatory masks in the beginning , we would probably won’t be in situation we’re in now. There’s going to be a lots of business going to go bankrupt if there’s going to be another lockdown.

    2. I am not in favor of speed limits, the infringement upon my right to drink while I drive, and the infringement upon my right to text while I drink and I drive at whatever speed I choose. I also dislike the fact that I cannot discharge a firearm in town, that I cannot take a gun in with me when I pick my child up from the elementary school, and that people have all these other crazy rules that they’re making me live by. Personal responsibility is just that, and to make laws to dictate to me what I can do–well that’s just crazy. The original thought was that representatives in our government should be representative of us–and these two are! Great Libertarians!!!

Back to top button