Liberal mayors Sylvester Turner of Houston and Steve Adler of Austin each doubled down on their wear-a-mask orders. Adler extended his order and associated $2,000 non-compliance fine through the remainder of 2020, though police have so far resisted strict enforcement of the order.
Turner, though the fine for continually resisting being told to wear a mask is much lower ($250), announced Houston Police will begin issuing fines after a warning, though no arrests would be made.
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On Monday, five Texas Legislators sued the governor’s office over a $295 million COVID-19 contact tracing contract awarded to a small Dallas-area technology firm.
According to Courthouse News, Texas Reps. Mike Lang, Kyle Biederman, Bill Zedler, Steve Toth, and Sen. Bob Hall sued Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican, as well as the Texas Department of State Health Services and Frisco-based MTX Group in Travis County District Court for not following competitive bidding procedures in the Texas Constitution. The suit aims to void the contract and halt state payments.
The Texas House and Senate are scheduled to return in January for the 87th Legislative Session. A review of the governor’s executive powers regarding emergencies is expected to be a major point of contention.
“The governor cannot establish new state policy, issue a $295 million contract to implement that policy, and ignore or suspend state statutes just by claiming ‘it’s a disaster,’” the complaint states, according to Courthouse News. “The Disaster Act has rarely been employed, and thus its deficiencies have not been obvious until about March 2020, when the Covid-19 virus caused widespread alarm and executives all over Texas began issuing orders created by no legislative process.”
The Governor’s office has not responded to the suit, but in the past has defended the actions as necessary during a pandemic. A spokesman for the Governor’s office previously defended the choice of MTX as a contractor, which has implemented contact tracing in at least 10 states.