As Texans continue to suffer financially from government-ordered shutdowns during the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, another North Texas lawmaker is proposing plans to safely and swiftly reopen the state’s economy.

State Sen. Angela Paxton (R–McKinney) sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday, urging him to “immediately open the marketplace … based on compliance, rather than a designation of essential or non-essential.”

“Record-breaking unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown represents unprecedented numbers of individuals no longer able to provide for their families because of lost wages and lost insurance,” Paxton wrote. “Reopening the economy is urgent so that families and businesses can once again flourish in physical, mental, and economic well-being.”

Paxton said consumers will choose to re-engage in the marketplace to the extent they feel safe, and businesses have a natural incentive to create safe conditions for consumers—without government mandates.

“This is a decision on the part of the business owners and the market, not the government,” she added.

Paxton also proposed a “Reopen Texas” statewide sales tax holiday to celebrate and kick off the reopening of the economy.

So far, Abbott has not responded to calls for swift action to revive the economy, instead deferring to an appointed “strike force” of advisors to formulate an as yet unspecified plan.

Paxton’s colleague State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) sent Abbott a letter last week, urging the governor to implement 14 specific policy proposals for getting Texans back to work safely and quickly.

“All businesses are essential to someone,” Hall said.

That has become the common theme among officials and citizens urging Abbott to release a plan reopen the state’s economy and get Texas back to work.

“All businesses, jobs, and workers are essential,” Collin County Judge Chris Hill said in an executive order issued March 24 that encouraged employers to stay open if they could do so safely.

Hill’s countywide order was superseded by the governor’s statewide order that took effect April 1 and is set to remain in place through April 30. But Hill and others have continued to emphasize personal responsibility both during the lockdowns and after the governor lifts his restrictions.

“There’s a big difference between being smart and being forced,” Hill said Thursday during an online discussion of economic recovery plans hosted by Paxton, whose Senate District 8 is mostly within Collin County.

Several Texas House members have also pressed Abbott for immediate action and offered specific policy recommendations for a plan to help Texas recover from the government-ordered closures.

Last week, State Reps. Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth) and Mike Lang (R–Granbury) sent Abbott proposals for getting Texans back to work. Both Krause and Lang topped their lists with advice to remove distinctions between essential and non-essential businesses.

This week, State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R–Fredericksburg) asked Abbott to “allow small businesses to open their doors,” end the government-ordered shutdowns, and reopen the Texas economy so citizens can get back to work.

“Every job is essential in Texas,” Biedermann said.

“Let my constituents go to work while they are still listening because they are going to go back to work regardless, as their lives depend on it,” State Rep. Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands) added in a letter to Abbott on Tuesday, asking the governor to allow healthy people to go back to work immediately.

Citizens worried about the financial harm to Texas families caused by the coronavirus response are also asking the governor for a plan to safely reopen the economy, with many showing their support at public rallies.

“All businesses are essential,” said Michelle Smith, a Collin County resident and co-founder of the group Open Texas, which is organizing rallies and urging Abbott to move forward.

In Collin County, over 10,000 people a week are filing for unemployment.

Abbott has said he will announce recommendations on Monday from his strike force for a phased reopening of the Texas economy. Several other states have already rolled out specific plans and begun getting people back to work.

As of April 24, over 1.7 million Texans have filed unemployment claims in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.