Visitors to the Texas Capitol on the opening day of the 87th Legislative Session will be forced to submit to a mandatory COVID-19 test, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
DPS, who oversees the police force in the Capitol, made the announcement on Monday evening, less than 24 hours before lawmakers are set to be sworn in to begin their 140-day session.
“When the 87th Texas Legislative Session convenes tomorrow, the public will have access to the State Capitol, but individuals will be required to take a COVID-19 test prior to entry. We understand that this might be an inconvenience for some; however, the department considers it essential for public safety purposes during opening day,” they said, adding that the test would take 15 minutes to process.
Some have suggested the shift in protocol was pushed by the State Preservation Board, the governing authority for the Capitol. The State Preservation Board is governed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the speaker of the House, and representatives from the House and Senate.
The move comes contrary to initial guidance given by the board last week, which stipulated that tests were encouraged but not mandatory.
Fran Rhodes, the president of True Texas Project, says she learned of the new protocol shortly before heading down to Austin for the opening day with 15 fellow activists.
“I don’t know about the other 14 people in our group – but I will NOT submit to their stupid (unreliable) rapid test in order to petition my government. So for me – I’ll be PROTESTING at the Capitol today instead of PARTICIPATING in my government,” Rhodes said in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning.