Among the dozens of measures that the Texas House killed by running down the legislative clock are two that would have protected Texans against abusive interventions to address a declared disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 1104 by State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury) would have given the Legislature sole authority to suspend laws and regulations after 30 days of a declared disaster, at which time the governor would have been required to convene the Legislature if they were not in session. It passed the Senate by a 30-0 vote on March 28.

Senate Bill 177 by State Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston) would have required anyone administering a COVID-19 vaccine to obtain the recipient’s informed consent beforehand. It would have authorized the attorney general to enforce this restriction and required violators to pay damages of at least $5,000. SB 177 passed the Senate 20-11 on April 18.

Both measures were scheduled for consideration in the House on Tuesday, May 23, but they weren’t brought up for a vote before midnight, ending their prospects of becoming law.

Lawmakers in both parties wasted hours Tuesday and the days leading up to it “chubbing,” or asking and answering mundane questions about uncontroversial bills to drag out the clock.

Arguably, both bills would have satisfied one of Abbott’s legislative emergency items announced during his February State of the State address.

Texans for Vaccine Choice blasted the House for its failure to pass SB 177, saying, “It’s indefensible that the Texas House regarded medical liberty as unimportant and unworthy of passage.”

State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian), one of the House co-sponsors for SB 177, issued a statement of his own regarding its demise:

While Texas should be leading on medical freedom, the Texas House has clearly decided to oppose it. This session, leadership caved to liberal special interests and blocked comprehensive bans on COVID vaccine mandates from even being heard on the floor; a decision that will allow Texans to be fired if they do not take a COVID vaccine. COVID vaccine mandates are a line-in-the-sand issue for liberty. They destroy medical freedom, are scientifically indefensible, and have no place in the great state of Texas.

Harrison’s House Bill 81, which is identical to SB 177, cleared the lower chamber’s Public Health Committee in April by a 10-1 vote but was never scheduled for debate on the House floor. In 2021, similar legislation by Harrison never received a hearing.

Likewise, Birdwell filed a measure similar to SB 1104 during the 2021 regular session. It passed the Senate by a vote of 30-1 but never received a hearing in the House.

As the session comes to an end, a committee of House and Senate lawmakers are negotiating legislation that would prohibit local governments and state agencies from implementing mask or vaccine mandates or requiring businesses to close to combat the spread of COVID-19.

A legislative priority of both Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Birdwell’s Senate Bill 29 does not apply to businesses and is solely limited to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, not any other infectious diseases.

Darrell Frost

Since graduating from Hillsdale College, Darrell has held key roles in winning political campaigns, managed a state legislator's Capitol office, and taught at a classical charter school. He enjoys participating in outdoor activities, playing the harmonica, and learning about the latest scientific developments.