Legislators should always be acutely mindful of their oath of office because that oath was designed to act as a solemn tether, binding them to constitutional government. Their duty is to act within their constitutionally limited role to protect individual life, individual rights (liberty), and property.
In assessing H.B.3, which is under consideration for the purpose of clarifying the executive authority claimed by under Texas Government Code, Chapter 418, during COVID-19, the fundamental question before the Texas Legislature is most certainly “Does Chapter 418 – The Texas Disaster Act of 1975 violate the Texas Constitution?” The answer to that is clearly “Yes,” it does violate the Texas Constitution.
Article 1, Section 28 of the Texas Constitution states, “No power can suspend the laws of the state except the legislature.”
Throughout the pandemic, Governor Abbott made laws, suspended laws, fast tracked a $295 million contact tracing contract, regulated churches, defined “essential” and “non-essential” businesses and workers, defined as “elective” any healthcare need outside of COVID-19, separated family members from loved ones in nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term care facilities, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars (at least) without any input from the legislative branch. Governor Abbott refused to call the legislature into session. This refusal entirely eliminated the voice of the People – the “consent of the governed.”
The Texas Constitution strictly limits the Governor’s authority even in times of crisis. If the powers of a Governor are unlimited, allowing him to unilaterally suspend or infringe upon our Constitutional rights, for an unlimited duration, whenever he decides to declare an emergency, then our Constitutional rights are merely a facade. If legislators do anything short of curtailing the unconstitutional overreach of the Governor – by reasserting the Constitutional authority of the legislature – then they will have failed the people of Texas.
H.B. 3 does not prohibit lockdowns, travel bans, or mask mandates, nor does it give anyone standing to challenge an illegal executive order in court. The civil liability protection, at best, does not help any business since any policy they adopt will be “willful.” At worst, it implies liability where there was none previously.
We must strongly oppose the 10-member Pandemic Disaster Legislative Oversight Committee made up of the Lt. Governor, House Speaker, and hand-picked House and Senate Committee Chairs. This is an oligarchy that violates the republican (representative) form of government guaranteed by our Constitution. This Committee is no guaranteed “check and balance” on the executive branch, which endangers liberty!
We urge the Texas Legislature to take back its power! Vote down H.B. 3 and give Texans back their voice through their elected legislators.
Each legislator is obligated by their oath of office to uphold the Texas Constitution by opposing any and all legislation that violates the Constitution. H.B. 3 violates the Texas Constitution and must be defeated.