The following letter was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott on June 1, 2020.
Dear Governor Abbott,
It is important I stress this letter is not personal in nature nor is it intended to be judgmental. Rather, it’s being written in hopes that you might consider changing course due to constitutional concerns. We have worked together on many important issues over my three terms, and I hope that crucial work continues as we approach the next legislative session. I also appreciate your care for the public health of Texans and think you are doing what you believe is right. However, I must also speak up for what I know to be true on behalf of my local constituency and all Texans.
I wish I did not have to address this letter solely to you, but instead to the entire Legislature (who I believe should be making some of the decisions). It would be ideal if more than one individual was deciding how the nearly 30 million Texans live their lives. That is why our founders created multiple branches of government with an intention of shared responsibility amongst public officials. I do understand the intent behind your decisions, though I respectfully disagree with many of them. Even so, the open lines of communication you have provided legislators prior to the release of new orders is much appreciated.
Several months ago, the entire world was gripped with fear, and the result was a massive growth in government power. So much so, I believe it would make our Founding Fathers roll over in their graves. Nearly every governor, Republican and Democrat alike, took on the responsibility of how each citizen in their state should act, what they would wear, how to travel, whether or not they could work, whether the business they own could open or not and to what capacity, and even how or if they could worship. While well intentioned, the result has been catastrophic to individual liberties and freedoms that we have sworn to protect as elected officials.
Many governors, once they realized the chaos this created, refused to let up in a timely manner but instead very slowly began to loosen orders. In only a few scenarios has there been any recognition of overreaction. I did appreciate that even after you publicly supported jailing individuals who disobeyed your executive orders, you saw the danger in it, and called for Shelley Luther’s release. That was a willingness to make a 180-degree turn. More actions like this are necessary for Texas and our nation right now.
Additionally, the idea of personal responsibility has not even entered the conversation. For example, last week you told bowling alleys they had your blessing to reopen, but only 25% of their facilities could be used at a given time. Whether based in science or not, that action is outside the purview of a governor’s authority. Why should one individual decide 25%, 50%, or 99% of a business can be opened? It leaves no room for owners to make decisions in the interest of their families, employees, and customers. Instead it is a death sentence for many companies’ and employees’ financial security who have fought to stay afloat during this time.
You also decided water parks may reopen but amusement parks cannot. It troubled me when I read that you “would like to see them open as soon as possible”. Truly, I am baffled that in a state run by a majority of Republicans we are picking winners and losers in every single industry. All of it is based on what a few central planners decide.
A serious problem of today is that Texans are being ruled over more than any time in recent history, and there is not a single elected representative or senator afforded the opportunity to have a voice or vote on behalf of their constituents. The Legislature is essentially left powerless other than to write letters and ask for permission, approval, or a new executive order.
I believe the actions by many governors during this time are paving the way for future leaders to exert these same powers, perhaps in ways you would not support. It is precedent-setting and cannot continue or we will look back and cease to have the same Texas or United States we so love and cherish. A constitutional republic of representatives is messy, but it is much better than an unaccountable executive who makes unilateral decisions. This is not a criticism of you directly; it is a truism that exists regardless of the character of the man or woman in power in any state.
We now know this virus is nothing like what any of us expected in the early days, which is a great development. We are in a better position than the best models and predictions thought possible. It is not due to government actors ruling over us, but rather, the information we now have reveals this virus is much less deadly than we were told.
Therefore, if we allow government to continue to grow one more iota over this level of threat, then we are ushering in the very foundations of socialism. When government determines which companies can operate and how to do so, it is writing the book for future leaders who wish to impose their beliefs. I am confident those on the far left watched how quickly the people accepted change and will use it as precedent to push the state as far left as possible should a Democrat or Socialist governor be elected.
The question I would encourage you ask yourself is this: do you want to be the governor who helped socialism take root in Texas or one who stood for freedom in the midst of great pressure? I know we both stand for freedom and personal liberty over socialist ideals. However, they will take root if we do not permanently change this course now.
The about-face needed is one that moves away from deciding how Texans live their lives.
A perfect example is your recent decision to let adult sports leagues begin practicing without playing games. Why can people make conscious decisions to gather together but when competition enters the picture, they are not to be trusted? In America and Texas, people take actions some may consider unsafe all the time. Examples include skydiving, racing cars around a track, smoking, drinking, and so many others. People are trusted to make decisions based on the risk they presume. Government does not make those decisions for them, nor should it.
I do not want a Texas where your opinion (or mine) is what decides whether people can get together to practice for a sports game or compete in one, go to church, keep their business open, or even go to work to make a living and care for their families. Many of these rights are granted through our Texas and U.S. Constitutions, and we must always protect them aside from fears that arise. Free from the constraints this emergency has created, I want a Texas where Texans decide.
I would like to make one final point which concerns contract tracing. The MTX contract must end promptly. It is a gross invasion of personal liberty and privacy. I also have serious concerns it violates HIPPA and other medical privacy laws. Why is Texas spending nearly $300 million of taxpayer money on tracking Texans for two years over this? Though it may be federally funded, every dollar spent by local, state, or the federal government either comes from current taxpayers or the children or grandchildren of taxpayers through debt service. Therefore, we could have forgone the federal funds, saved taxpayer dollars, and not conducted privacy-infringing tracing.
If our current circumstances are enough of a rationale to ignore personal liberties, what will Democrats use as the reason to enact their policies with executive orders and the stroke of a pen? What is deemed important enough to act unilaterally is in the eye of the beholder and decision maker.
It is time to take an about-face and return Texas to the free state that makes us great. All Texans are counting on you. Texas can and will set the standard for all other states in the nation.
I look forward to working with you on these issues and others throughout the reopening of Texas and during the next legislative session.
This is a commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to [email protected].