Texas Senate moves Senate Bill 29 forward in a vote of 7-3, signaling progress in attempts to prohibit mask and vaccine mandates, as well as local government shutdowns of businesses and schools. The proposed legislation, introduced by State Rep. Brian Birdwell, comes three years following the pandemic-induced closures of schools and businesses and mandatory vaccine and mask requirements.
During the hearing, several witnesses expressed their support for the bill, hoping that similar events will never come to pass again. Individuals such as Rebecca Hardy, from Texans for Vaccine Choice, acknowledge the losses of countless Texans and aim to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated. Likewise, Tom Glass, from the Texas Constitutional Enforcement Group, hopes to establish principles which will preclude vaccine mandates, lockdowns, and similar restrictions from occurring again in Texas.
However, Dr. Valerie Smith, in support of the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Pediatric Society, voices her concerns regarding the prohibition of local government action, citing the need for flexibility in the face of regional outbreaks of COVID-19. Should hospitals and physician offices become overrun, Dr. Smith believes that local governments may need to enact measures to protect patients from harm.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who has fought for mask mandates throughout the pandemic, hopes that the bill will not become law. Despite not wishing to force mask-wearing or any other such issue, he maintains that trust must be placed in science to protect people during future outbreaks.
The House has an identical bill, which must pass to ensure the legislation’s progress to the desk of the governor. State Rep. Birdwell emphasizes that the bill’s reach is limited to COVID-19 and its subordinate variants, having no power over unknown viruses in the future. For now, attention remains fixed upon the upcoming passage of the bill, with hopes that it will pass without significant issue.