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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

San Antonio State Rep Tells Gov. Abbott to Stop Ignoring Legislature During COVID-19 Response

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 3:25 PM

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott shows off his reopening plan during a recent press conference. - INSTAGRAM / @GOVERNORABBOTT
  • Instagram / @governorabbott
  • Gov. Greg Abbott shows off his reopening plan during a recent press conference.
Citing concern over the state's inability to slow the spread of COVID-19, State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, sent a letter asking Gov. Greg Abbott to work with the Texas Legislature instead of going it alone.

Even as diagnoses and hospitalizations spike across the state, Texas' Republican governor has largely limited the response to his own emergency orders, sometimes pushing back against municipalities for adopting more stringent rules.

Abbott has also faced criticism for reopening Texas' economy too quickly and giving political insiders such as longtime lobbyist Mike Toomey oversize influence on the state's reopening "strike force."

"You have placed our recovery in the hands of a registered lobbyist, and I think we can do better," Martinez Fischer wrote in the June 30 letter. "It is time to fully activate the diverse group of lawmakers — Republican and Democratic, rural and urban, old and young — whom you have largely sidelined from the COVID-19 decision-making."

Abbott's office was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.

In a Zoom call with reporters, Martinez Fisher said Texas' code grants certain powers to the governor in times of crisis, but it doesn't give Abbott unlimited ability to act without input from the Lege. State rules are also clear that the executive's power is limited in time and scope, he added.

click to enlarge Democratic State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer speaks during a Zoom call with reporters. - SCREEN CAPTURE
  • Screen Capture
  • Democratic State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer speaks during a Zoom call with reporters.
"These powers are intended to be executed in coordination with lawmakers, not to our exclusion," Martinez Fischer wrote in his letter. "If state law gives the Legislature the ultimate authority in emergency declarations, then we have the authority to shape the Governor’s response.”

During the same Zoom call, State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said Abbott has failed to show leadership during the pandemic. As proof, she cited his failure to implement a statewide order for people to wear masks in public, a step widely supported by public health experts.

"I am having a hard time understanding why we are digging our heels over the simple act of wearing a mask," she said. "We know from science, we know from data, and we know from the University of Texas and Texas A&M that a mandate for wearing masks is the most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of the coronavirus. We have Longhorns and Aggies, both, telling us what the most effective thing we can do."

On Tuesday, more than 6,500 people were hospitalized in Texas with COVID-19, a new record and a total that's risen almost every day since June 1.

"I would hope and I would expect that in the last 24 hours I would hear a much stronger and much more aggressive response from our governor," Martinez Fischer said on the call. "And I hate to say it, but as of right now, the only response we've had from the governor is something between nothing, nada and zilch."

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