At an emergency meeting of Dallas County’s commissioners on Friday morning, County Judge Clay Jenkins successfully passed an order that will punish businesses if they don’t require people to wear masks inside. This action was made possible by Gov. Greg Abbott.

This week, after pressure from local governments in Texas, Abbott said that “local governments can require stores and businesses to require masks.” His previous orders made it impossible for local governments to mandate masks on individuals, but Abbott praised efforts by Democrat Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff to go after Texans’ individual liberties by making local private businesses enforce such mandates. Abbott gave the impression that Wolff had figured out his puzzle.

Friday morning, Dallas’ Democrat County Judge Clay Jenkins managed to have an emergency meeting of the commissioners court held to pass a similar mandate.

Jenkins’ original proposal said, “Employees or visitors to the commercial entity’s business premises or other facilities wear face coverings in an area or while performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public where six feet of separation is not feasible.”

Similar to Wolff’s order, Jenkins called for a $1,000 fine as punishment. Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia had it lowered to $500, and Jenkins clarified it to be a “civil penalty” that will punish businesses “for each violation.”

“What’s the difference between a civil penalty and fine?” asked Commissioner John Wiley Price.

Jenkins said the county’s Health and Human Services Department would write the tickets and kept trying to present this new punishment as one that did not involve law enforcement coming after citizens. Price didn’t buy it.

“Nuisance abatement officers are law enforcement. They are peace officers. That’s the only authority HHS has,” he countered.

Commissioner J.J. Koch agreed. “I encourage folks to wear a mask; I also encourage them to eat their vegetables,” he said. “But I cannot put a guy with a gun out there to enforce either.”

Price also expressed concern that this opens the door for cities in Dallas County to pass criminal penalties to enforce mask mandates on businesses.

Only Koch and Price voted against the mandate. Businesses have five days to comply.

Price took a strong stand against the mandate, especially voicing support for local black-owned businesses. “I want him or her to make their own free-market decisions. And if they say that [they] want everybody to wear a mask, then they have that governance. They don’t need me.”

When Price was told that would mean citizens would just go to businesses that have no mask requirement, he doubled down. “The last time I checked, that’s free market.”

Concerned Dallas County residents may contact Abbott, who is responsible for allowing this, or their state senator and state representative.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.


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