Texas Bill Limiting Power to Impose Mask, Vaccine Mandates Moves Forward

There is identical legislation in the Texas House.

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Senate Bill 29, now moves ahead in the Texas Senate. Lawmakers voted 7 to 3 to send it to the full Senate floor.  The bill prohibits mask and vaccine mandates, and local governments from shutting down businesses and schools.

“The short answer is it only applies to COVID-19 and its subordinate variants. It does not apply to any future unknown virus,” said State Rep. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury).

Birdwell's bill comes three years after businesses shut their doors, schools were closed, and vaccines and masks were required by some organizations during the pandemic.

There were several witnesses during the hearing.

“Certainly, we cannot erase what has happened to millions of Texans, their businesses, their families and their futures.  We cannot even attempt to remediate losses tangible or otherwise. What we can do is ensure that these mistakes are not repeated,” said Rebecca Hardy, with Texans for Vaccine Choice.

“I want to get the principles straight for the future so that lockdowns and mandates and vax mandates never again are visited upon the people of Texas," said Tom Glass, Texas Constitutional Enforcement Group.

Dr. Valerie Smith, who spoke on behalf of the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Pediatric Society, raised red flags.

“Another deadly outbreak of COVID-19 might be isolated locally or regionally, so limiting local government action could hinder that response. These entities may need some of these measures to prevent hospitals and physician offices from being overrun and unable to care for patients,” said Smith.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who fought for mask mandates during the pandemic, is hopeful this does not become law.

"We don't want to have to make anybody wear a mask or do anything, but if the doctors feel in the next surge that something needs to happen to keep people safe we need to listen to science,” said Jenkins.

An identical bill was filed in the Texas House. Both must be passed in order for the legislation to make it to the governor’s desk.

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