Harris County attorneys claim that Gov. Abbott has abused his power, unfairly impinging upon local governments’ rights.
Harris County has filed a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who earlier this summer prohibited counties and cities from setting their own mask mandates.
According to The Hill, Harris County Attorney Christiana Menefee said that his office is seeking to challenge Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38, which bans school districts and other local authorities from imposing or setting their own rules for face coverings.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Menefee said that Abbott has “repeatedly misused his own authority” when responding to the pandemic.
“The current wave of the Delta variant presents a real and imminent threat to our lost vulnerable populations, and local officials need to be able to respond to this crisis,” Menefee said. “The governor’s executive order acknowledges this crisis, and then bans any meaningful action to address it.”
Menefee observed that Abbott has refused to change his stance, even as hospitals in Houston—the largest city in Texas and the seat of Harris County—continue to receive an increasing number of critical coronavirus patients.
“As hospitals become overwhelmed and schools look toward reopening, the 4.7 million people in Harris County deserve leadership that will enact measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Menefee added.
Houston Public Media reports that Menefee plans to argue that Gov. Abbott lacks authority under the Texas Disaster act to preempt local rules set by city and county officials.
Menefee said there is a possibility he may be able to prove that Gov. Abbott cannot restrict vaccine mandates, either.
“We are looking forward to getting into the fight,” he said. “On such a major issue that will ultimately be decided by the Texas Supreme Court, it’s important that the largest county in the state of Texas is involved in that fight, and that the voices of the residents in our county are being heard.”
Houston Public Media notes that Menefee announced his lawsuit shortly after a Fort Bend County judge issued a temporary restraining order against Gov. Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.
Other counties in Texas—including Dallas and Bexar—have filed similar lawsuits against the state.
Menefee suggested that counties are pushing back against Gov. Abbott, who took some protective measures at the beginning of the pandemic but has since allowed life to resume with minimal restrictions.
“At the start of the pandemic, the governor, like many other county judges and mayors across the state, was taking measures designed to protect people,” Menefee said. “But now he’s transformed his use of authority from protecting people to tying the hands of local government and putting people in harm’s way.”
A spokesperson from Gov. Abbott’s office, while declining to comment on the specifics of the Harris County suit, told Houston Public Media that Menefee’s lawsuit is “misguided,” and that Gov. Abbott continues to encourage Texas residents to wear masks and get coronavirus vaccinations.
“This health disaster has continued to change, and so should our response,” Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said. “Texans have learned and mastered over the past year the safe practices to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID, and do not need the government to tell them how to do so.”