In The Battle Over State Versus Local COVID-19 Orders, The Governor Holds Most Of The Cards

May 14, 2020
Originally published on May 14, 2020 9:40 am

From Texas Standard:

State and local officials have issued a variety of orders related to how individuals and businesses can conduct themselves during the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, these orders conflict, cover different periods of time or provide different penalties if someone doesn't comply.

Sherri Greenberg is clinical professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. She told Texas Standard host David Brown on Thursday that orders issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott carry more weight than those issued by mayors and county judges.

"Here you had a situation where you had a public health disaster that was declared on March 19 in Texas, and from that you have the governor of the state of Texas declared a disaster in all Texas counties," Greenberg said.

The disaster declaration allowed the governor to issue executive orders, rather than having to seek approval from the Legislature. Many local officials also declared disasters in their communities. 

"If you have a situation where the governor says one thing in an order, and the city and county say another one, and it's specific, state law supersedes," Greenberg said.

The state rule that restaurants are allowed to open at 25% capacity overrules city or county orders that would either raise that capacity limit, or lower it.

In the case of local orders that don't have a state parallel, including shelter-in-place and mask-wearing rules, Greenberg said cities and counties are limited by Gov. Abbott when it comes to enforcing those orders with jail time, as in the case of a Dallas salon owner who kept her shop open in violation of a local order. Abbott intervened, removing penalties that had previously been part of a state order.

Web story by Shelly Brisbin.

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