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Texas House votes to approve bill that would limit governor’s emergency pandemic powers


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press event. - COURTESY PHOTO / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
  • Courtesy Photo / Office of the Governor
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press event.
The Texas House granted preliminary approval to a bill that would rein in Gov. Greg Abbott's emergency powers during future pandemics and require the executive branch to call together the Legislature if another such crisis drags on.

However, in addition to additional checks on the governor, the proposal also includes amendments to limit local officials' ability to issue their own orders. During the pandemic, Texas' Democrat-controlled big cities often tussled with Abbott, a Republican, over who had authority to impose restrictions such as mask mandates.

The Republican-controlled lower chamber approved House Bill 3 on a 92-45 vote. It faces another House vote before it can move to the Senate, which is also controlled by the GOP but hasn't passed its own measure to limit the governor's emergency powers.

Movement on the bill comes as lawmakers on both sides the aisle criticized Abbott for declining to call a special session to deal with the COVID crisis. Indeed, Texas was one of only three states that went 10 months without convening one to address the pandemic, according to an analysis by Hearst Newspapers.

Democrats have criticized Abbott for being slow to implement a statewide mask order and swatting down municipalities — San Antonio included — that tried to issue their own. The right flank of the governor's own party has blasted him for being slow to reopen businesses and sued him for extending early voting.

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