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State Rep. Schaefer files bill to limit governor’s powers on disaster mandates

Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 7:29 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas state representative has filed a bill in hopes of limiting governor powers during a disaster declaration.

State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) filed HB 1406 on Wednesday. It states, “A person has standing to file suit in a court of this state to challenge a provision of an order issued by the governor or the presiding officer of the governing body of a political subdivision that relates to a declared state of disaster if the provision in the order is alleged to cause injury to the person or burden a right of the person that is protected by the state or federal constitution or by a state or federal law.”

“The governor has issued orders on masks, businesses, making hospitals do certain things,” Schaefer said in an interview on East Texas Now on Wednesday. “We believe the underlying statute of what he’s using is not in line with the Texas Constitution, which says only the legislature can suspend laws.”

Schaefer said he wants to give private individuals and businesses an opportunity to take the issue to court to have mandates overturned.

“A court can decide, ‘is it being too strict?’” Schaefer said. “Is it actually accomplishing its purpose? Let there be a burden on the government to prove these orders -- closing a business, wearing a mask, making it a criminal offense on someone cutting hair -- are actually something that is necessary and constitutional.”

Schaefer joined eight other state lawmakers in April, calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to relax his executive order during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schaefer, the vice-chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, sent a joint letter to the governor’s office, calling for a change of course in the state’s virus response.

“The clear messages we are hearing lead us to this conclusion: Texas must immediately increase healthcare and business activity while maintaining protections for the most vulnerable Texans,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, we respectfully ask that you loosen your state-wide executive order to the greatest extent possible while giving local jurisdictions the flexibility to respond to local conditions.”

Previous story: Rep. Schaefer calls on governor to reopen business, increase healthcare during pandemic

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