Texas GOP Chairman Allen West formally announced his opposition to State Rep. Dustin Burrows‘ (R–Lubbock) House Bill 3, a bill that would codify and expand the governor’s powers during pandemics.
West submitted testimony before the Texas House State Affairs Committee against the bill, saying the proposal was patently unconstitutional.
“HB 3 will codify unconstitutional actions by an executive into law. No emergency is grounds for the suspension of the rule of law. And no executive — at any level of government — is above the rule of law,” said West. “HB 3 will elevate the state executive over the rule of law and make orders, mandates, decrees, and edicts equal to law. HB 3 relegates the legislative branch irrelevant and no longer a co-equal branch of government. Only the legislative branch has the enumerated power to make or amend the law.”
He added that there should not be any legislative committee that should have power over the rest of the Texas Legislature, referring to a controversial tenet of the bill that puts the power of ending a governor’s pandemic disaster order to a 10-member panel consisting of the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House, and a selection of committee chairs from each chamber.
To demonstrate how greatly expanded power can be abused, West discussed the Patriot Act and its creation of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts.
“In response to the terrorist attack of 9/11, that seemed a great endeavor. However, we have seen how the power of the FISA court has been abused,” referencing its empowerment of a surveillance state that tramples American’s civil liberties.
West urged the Legislature to vote against HB 3 and instead produce companion legislation to State Sen. Brian Birdwell’s (R–Fort Worth) Senate Bill 1025 and Senate Joint Resolution 45, which he says “ensures no Texas State executive, current or future, can define an emergency and suspend our rule of law, and individual rights, freedoms, and liberty.”