Following the example of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) filed bills that would help protect citizens’ freedom during emergencies and ban mask mandates statewide. He did this the same day Tarrant County commissioners ignored scientists, as well as citizens, and extended their countywide mask mandate.

On Tuesday, Schaefer filed House Bills 2097 and 2098, both of which would end the governor’s and local officials’ mask mandates, bar them from ever issuing such mandates again unless the legislature authorizes it, and take away officials’ ability to fine citizens for not following their emergency orders.

Both bills, if signed into law, would take effect on September 1, 2021, unless a two-thirds majority in the Texas House and Senate voted for approval. In that situation, the bills would take effect immediately.

Schaefer filed these bills on the same day Tarrant County commissioners in North Texas unanimously extended their countywide mask mandate, compelling businesses to fine citizens in their buildings $1,000 if they aren’t wearing a mask, ignoring citizens and other voices in the scientific community.

Texas is also currently under a statewide mask mandate from Gov. Greg Abbott.

“Want a mask mandate with a criminal offense? Pass a law,” Schaefer posted on social media. “[The] governor can’t create a crime & also enforce the crime. That violates separation of powers. No one person should ever have that power.”

HB 2097 & 2098 will repeal the mask mandate and restore checks and balances.

Schaefer’s filings follows Florida Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, who fully reopened his state and banned local officials from mandating masks. It also follows a call to action from Republican Party of Texas Chair Allen West for the Texas Legislature to address “executive overreach.”

“We must return to being governed by laws passed by a legislative body,” West said ahead of the legislative session.

“Thank you a thousand times,” replied Wade Skinner on Schaefer’s social media page.

“How long will our local governments be allowed to continue usurping our rights?” asked Jenna Howard. “We need immediate action to end the tyranny and legislation to prevent it!”

The next step for these bills to be voted on by the full House is for them to be assigned to a committee. Historically, bills in the House related to disaster preparedness would go to the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee; in the Senate, it would go to the Water, Agriculture, & Rural Affairs Committee.

Bills in the House are assigned to committees by the speaker of the House; in the Senate, they are assigned by the lieutenant governor.

This week, constitutional law expert and former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi called for civil disobedience. “We will be wearing masks five years from now if people keep complying.”

The Texas Legislative session runs until May 31. Citizens may keep track of House Bills 2097 and 2098 by using Texas Legislature Online.

Robert Montoya

A former filmmaker, University of North Texas graduate, and one-time assistant language teacher, Robert Montoya misses Japan and the 1980s. He is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard.