Abbott under fire for COVID-19 restrictions, appointing taxpayer-funded lobbyist to lead strike force

Gov. Greg Abbott is under fire for not getting Texans back to work in a state where roughly 543 out of 29 million have died from COVID-19, and for hiring a taxpayer-funded lobbyist to lead the state’s strike force tasked with reopening the state.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that the status quo is “crushing the average” Texas worker and small businesses.

“In Texas, we have 29 million people, we lost 495 [the total is now 543], and every life is valuable, but 500 people out of 29 million and we’re locked down, and we’re crushing the average worker, and we’re crushing small business, we’re crushing the market,” Patrick said. “We’re crushing this country.”

As of April 22, there have been 21,069 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Texas and 543 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the State Department of Health Services.

As of April 22, the Texas Workforce Commission estimates the total number of COVID-19 unemployment claims is 1,407,238, or 10 percent of the state’s labor force and double the number of claims filed in all of 2019.

Woodlands-based mega church pastor Steve Riggle said in a video message that it’s time to get Texans back to work, yet the governor “made an announcement about an announcement and appointed a task force to further delay getting everyone back to work when he could have restored everything with a stroke of his pen.”

The head of the task force, the Texas Scorecard notes, is taxpayer-funded lobbyist Mike Toomey.

“As a partner of Texas Lobby Group, Toomey earns upwards of 3 million dollars per year lobbying on behalf of more than two dozen clients, including Walmart, pharmaceutical giant Merck, and local governments like the cities of Houston and San Antonio,” the scorecard reports. “This raises serious concerns that Toomey’s obligations to his clients may cause conflicts of interest as he recommends actions to Gov. Abbott to reopen Texas businesses.”

In response to a reporter inquiry at Tuesday’s news conference about his appointment of Toomey, Abbott said he “knows the nooks and crannies” of state government and could “deliver quick results.”

“There are 1.4 million Texans out of work, that number is growing, and so the state’s political leadership is … waiting on a task force,” Michael Quinn Sullivan at Texas Scorecard said. The governor “shut everything down without a task force, why does he need one to undo his own actions?”

State legislators proposed plans to reopen the state prior to the appointment of the task force, to no avail. Now one legislator, Rep. Steve Toth, R–Woodlands, says Texans need to get back to work immediately – and they will not wait on the governor to do so.

In Toth’s Montgomery County, seven people have died from the virus, fewer than those who have committee suicide because they have lost their jobs due to the economic shutdown, he said.

In a letter to Abbott, Toth wrote, “My constituents have followed requests and orders to socially distance. But now that supply chains are established and we have supplies and capacity, why can’t we truly reopen Texas? With a death rate from Covid-19 proving to be this low, how can we not?”

“Let my constituents go to work while they are still listening because they are going to go back to work regardless, as their lives depend on it.”

State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, tweeted, “While Gov. Abbott continues to delay action, even the Democratic Governor of Colorado, a state hit 5 times harder than Texas by the virus, is being more proactive in lifting restrictions.”

In fact, “Now that we know our hospitals aren’t going to be overrun by COVID-19 cases, governors and mayors should immediately reverse course and begin opening their states and communities for business,” he said.

The governor’s office plans to announce additional restrictions lifted to the state’s emergency executive order Monday, April 27.

This article was first published by The Center Square.



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