State

Texas Lawmaker Files Bills That Would End State and Local Mask Orders

The bipartisan slew of bills meant to rein in the governor’s power continues to grow as state Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) has filed two bills in the Texas House to forbid mask mandates.

“The Governor cannot create a crime, and then also enforce the crime. That is a clear violation of separation of powers,” Schaefer wrote in a press release.

“No one person should ever have that power. The simple truth is that only the Legislature is constitutionally authorized to create, amend, or abolish criminal laws.”

The first bill, House Bill (HB) 2097, forbids mask orders. Like a bill recently passed by the North Dakota House, the ban against mask orders applies at both the state and local levels.

If HB 2097 were to pass, it would invalidate all current mask orders.

“The change in law made by this Act applies to executive orders, proclamations, and regulations that are currently in effect, or go into effect on or after the effective date of this Act,” the bill text reads.

The second bill, HB 2098, would disarm disaster orders by repealing the law that allows authorities to fine or jail citizens who disobey the “emergency management plan.” This section of government code has empowered Governor Greg Abbott to back up his emergency executive orders with the force of punishment.

Schaefer does not criticize the effectiveness of masks in his bills or his release, just the method by which the current mandates were enacted.

“There are strong opinions about masks. If a Member of the Legislature believes that a mask-mandate with a criminal offense is necessary, then they, not the executive, will file a bill, have a public hearing, and listen to testimony,” Schaefer stated.

“The law making process will determine the outcome, and the public gets a voice.”

Schaefer has put the sweeping emergency authority granted to Texas officials firmly in his crosshairs.

In addition to these mask-related proposals, he has filed a bill that would guarantee legal standing for citizens to sue the governor or other authorities for disaster orders that violate their constitutional rights. Yet another proposal meant to conform the governor’s powers to the Texas Constitution would amend Texas Government Code so that disaster orders do not carry the force of law.

Schaefer is not alone. Lawmakers in both parties have shown a clear desire to clip the governor’s wings. Abbott has shown himself amenable to reforming emergency powers, though mostly at the local level with regards to closing churches and businesses. Though Abbott has distanced himself from shutdowns at the city and county levels, where the government yoke often weighs heavier compared to the mostly voluntary mask orders of the governor, county judges depend on the same act that enables Abbott’s orders for their own mandates.

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