The political battle over face masks resurfaced at the Minnesota Capitol as the legislative session kicked off last week.

House Democrats passed a rule saying members and employees must wear face coverings, while the Senate Republican majority said a mandate would be divisive.

Sen. Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Bloomington, proposed a mask requirement in the Senate on Thursday, noting other legislatures — including Republican-led ones — have such a rule. "By doing this we show to our members, our colleagues, our staff, that we all care and have mutual respect," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka opposed the move, instead suggesting they "strongly encourage" the wearing of masks. The Senate voted 36-31 for Gazelka's alternative.

Lawmakers have clashed over mask-wearing during special sessions. Before the regular session started Tuesday, Gazelka said he sent a letter to Senate members encouraging masks. However, a number of Republicans opted to forgo masks as they took their oaths of office in the Senate chambers.

In the House, the new mask rule says legislators who don't comply would be referred to the Ethics Committee, and staff could face discipline.

Gov. Tim Walz passed an indoor mask-wearing requirement this summer for public places, but it does not apply to the Legislature.