New bill in state legislature seeks to limit governor’s power in a pandemic

“They saw the governor making a number of wide ranging decisions, and they felt like they wanted to be more of a participant in making those decisions.”
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 5:37 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Texas House on Monday gave preliminary approval to a sweeping bill that would reform the governor’s emergency powers during a pandemic and involve the state legislature during such instances.

State House members voted 92-45 for House Bill 3, which will need another vote in the lower chamber before it heads over to the state Senate for consideration.

Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service political economist and public policy expert Raymond Robertson joined First News at Four to talk about why lawmakers are pressing for this bill now.

“They saw the governor making a number of wide-ranging decisions,” Robertson explained, “and they felt like they wanted to be more of a participant in making those decisions.”

Roberston said the biennial structure of the state legislature means that state representatives generally weren’t part of the conversation when it came to laws concerning COVID-19 in 2020. He said they want to see that change in future scenarios. But he explains that not everything in the bill would hinder the governor’s power.

“The bill does restrict the governor in a number of important ways,” Robertson explained, “but the bill also affirms the governor’s ability right to suspend state laws and also overriding those local orders issued by county judges if they’re not consistent with state orders so what they’re trying to do is reconcile with the local governments are doing with what the state is doing while at the same time giving the legislature, much more input.”

Lawmakers added a number of amendments to the bill during the legislative session on Monday. Roberston said that’s not surprising for a bill of this nature.

“This is one of those times where emotions are very hard,” Roberston said, “people are very upset over a number of things on both sides of the aisle about the way the pandemic was handled .”

He said lawmakers want to make sure none of the injustices they felt happened in 2020 can be repeated and that’s leading to many lawmakers presenting their own solutions. But he said that also means they’ll need to carefully examine the final version of the bill before passing it.

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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