Eighty days have passed since Gov. Greg Abbott issued an emergency declaration over fears of the Chinese coronavirus. Since then, he has used the twice-renewed declaration to order businesses to close, require Texans to stay in their homes, ban large gatherings, and more.
These acts, along with the ensuing fallout of shuttering the state’s economy, have caused a growing number of lawmakers to speak out against Abbott’s actions, demanding Texas reopen. Some lawmakers are even looking into potential legislative fixes to ensure such a broad-sweeping shutdown could never happen again—or, at least, not without the legislature weighing in.
But while the Texas Legislature is scheduled to reconvene in January of 2021, State Rep. Mike Lang (R–Granbury) is the first lawmaker to tell Abbott we can’t wait that long.
In a letter addressed to Abbott on Monday, Lang calls on the governor to enact a special session “to provide legislative review and oversight of the current state of disaster, as well as on going [sic] related issues such as contract [sic] tracing.”
In the letter, Lang takes aim at the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 and Section 418 of the Texas Government Code, which created much of the emergency power the governor has used to justify his unilateral response during the past two and a half months, and says he is drafting legislation to “bring it up to constitutional standards.”
Though statute allows the legislature to terminate a state of disaster at any time, Lang notes that there is currently not a mechanism to do so aside from a special session, which can only be called by the governor. Lang suggests a new process by which a majority of legislators could compel a special session in order to review a disaster declaration that affects more than 50 percent of Texas counties.
Lang says he will likely release a draft of his legislative proposal within the next two weeks.
Lang will not, however, be returning to the Texas House in 2021, and is instead currently in a runoff election for a position as a Hood County Commissioner.