AUSTIN —The Texas Freedom Caucus is the latest and largest group of lawmakers so far to call for Gov. Greg Abbott to end the nearly $300 million contract he agreed to on behalf of the state to implement contact tracing of Chinese coronavirus patients.
On Tuesday, the group of 10 lawmakers joined a call issued first by Texas grassroots activists and quickly followed by State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood). In a press release, caucus members called for the $295 million contract with MTX Group to be “immediately canceled.”
“We share the grave concerns of our constituents about the MTX contract from both fiscal responsibility and privacy standpoints, and call for its immediate cancellation,” said State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville), chair of the caucus. “This is an enormous amount of money to be spent by the Health and Human Services Commission, and the Legislature has had no say in it. Even though it’s voluntary, there is potential for abuse when the state collects that much data from citizens, and the information, once collected, could easily fall into the wrong hands.”
State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler), who serves as vice chair of the group, said local efforts to track those with the virus and contain the spread are already working and that the new contract poses “too many concerns.”
“The MTX contract presents too many concerns about overspending, lack of local knowledge, and oversight for privacy and constitutional issues,” said Schaefer.
State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth), another officer of the caucus, concurred.
“There’s just too many questions and concerns. Contact tracing for deadly diseases is nothing new, but the scale that this contract allows for it is much bigger than anything we’ve ever seen in the past,” said Krause. “Such a massive collection and centralized storage of data on our citizens gives enormous power to whomever has access to it, and that power could largely go unchecked. This contract seems to provide us with many more questions than answers, and that’s not good for our republican form of government. The contract should be ended at once.”
While many of the finer points of the contact tracing contract and which strategies are actually going to be employed have not been fully revealed, the facts that have come to light have been summarized by Texas Scorecard here.