We’ve now had the governor of Texas serving as a one-man legislature for nearly 60 days, literally making up vast new laws and regulations, countermanding some, and even throwing out old laws. This goes far beyond any “emergency” powers for the governor our constitution and statutes ever contemplated.
The ramifications for our form of government cannot be overstated. No one intended the executive branch to become the de facto legislative branch, but that is what has happened since the onset of the “coronavirus” emergency. While the state’s constitution and statutes make provisions for the governor to take actions during a true emergency – hurricane, or other natural or manmade disaster – all presume those to be tightly limited in time and geography. But a statewide “pandemic” emergency stretching for months? None.
The state constitution allows a governor at any time to call a special session immediately, in 30-day increments. A governor can call as many as he likes, in a series and without interruption.
That hasn’t happened in Texas during this coronavirus madness – despite the massive scope of change we have seen, the upheaval in life, and the raw assumption of power at so many levels.
Consider this: A month ago, rather than appointing a phony “strike force” made up of donors and lobbyists, Gov. Greg Abbott could have called a special legislative session of the constitutional force elected by the citizenry. You know, the legislature – the House and Senate.
The legislature could have then passed real laws related to pandemic powers, and set real plans in motion for opening Texas. But he didn’t. Instead, he has legislated through a series of verbal and written orders, providing local governments with massive loopholes through which they have driven citizen-controlling and economy-killing agendas.
It begs a question: What does Greg Abbott know about the abilities, intellect, and even morals, of our legislators that makes them unfit for handling such work?
Indeed, two special sessions could have been held by now to establish real laws for this lingering crisis. Are we finding we don’t actually need a legislative branch, with all their pesky drama and hand-wringing?
Since Gov. Abbott didn’t trust the Texas Legislature to act during this crisis, why should Texans ever trust them? Yes, he has been providing them with “briefings” on his decision before he tells the public, but that’s no different than calls with donors and the media. It’s not like they are deciding anything; they most specifically are not, actually.
It does make me wonder why our legislators aren’t hopping mad that they have been effectively replaced.
Maybe legislators are simply fine being first to learn the latest gossip, with no interest in exercising the constitutional responsibility of their offices to set the state’s policies? Frankly, the 150 House members and 31 senators are daily assenting to the irrelevance of their branch of state government. They appear content to cheerlead the governor, and re-package his press releases.
But their personal contentment isn’t relevant.
Government derives its power—and responsibilities—from the consent of the governed. Those who cherish the rule of law should carefully consider the precedent that is being set. Are we content with it?