HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A Texas Court of Appeals says Gov. Greg Abbott doesn’t have the authority to ban local governments from imposing mask mandates.
On Thursday, the 345th District Court of Travis County upheld a previous trial court decision denying Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton’s invocation of the Texas Disaster Act to reason the limit on local entities and school districts.
Abbott and Paxton claim Abbott’s July 2021 order supersedes local mandates under the Act, which grants the governor abilities to issue orders related to public safety. But Harris County officials say the Act gives them the same abilities for their localities and that Abbott’s extend toward the state in general — the court says both sets of rules can exist at the same time.
“Nothing in the Act, however, suggests that these authorities are mutually exclusive, such that a disaster cannot simultaneously be both a statewide disaster and a local disaster,” court documents read.
The court also says measures that may be necessary in certain counties may not be needed in others.
The court ultimately says based on the Act’s language, it doesn’t agree Abbott has the power to pre-empt local authorities’ orders.
“We agree with our sister court in Dallas that [the Act] does not give the governor carte blanche to issue executive orders empowering him to rule the state in any way he wishes during a disaster,” the court writes.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott has emphasized personal responsibility over public orders, saying last summer that, “Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19.”
In similar decisions to the court’s on Thursday, the upholding has also been appealed by the state. It’s likely this ruling will follow suit.