The Problem:  There’s way too much misinformation being passed around about the authority state and local officials have (or do not have) to deal with the Chinese virus.  Some reputations will be blown to bits if this continues and the conservative grassroots movement will be harmed.

We are inundated with questions regarding local government authority to combat the virus. This is an effort to help you discover the answers for yourself – a great exercise in personal responsibility and civic duty. I respectfully urge you to be calm and use this as an opportunity to educate yourself and others on facts.

In this blog, I have laid out a process to arrive at factual information and provided links to the controlling legal authority in these mattersHear me – I am not saying that you don’t have a right to object. You absolutely do, but for Heaven’s sake, please do so from an educated position!

This is a longer piece, but a matter like this
cannot fit on a bumper sticker.
If you care about facts, take a little time
to step through this with me. 

The federal trigger – Once President Trump made declarations and issued executive orders to deal with the virus, those federal actions set off a series of “trickle downs” to the state and local levels. What each state and local authority did in response varies from state to state and from locale to locale. Keep in mind that once the President made his declaration and passed his executive orders, state and local government were in many ways compelled to act – both in the interest of public safety and to reduce risk of litigation.  However, we must examine certain sections of statutes (laws) to determine whether state and local officials are overstepping their bounds. Look for the “shalls” versus the “mays.”

After you have equipped yourself with these jurisdictional and statutory facts, you will be better prepared to engage your local elected officials about the actions they are taking. 

The rule of law matters.  You need to know the laws on the books first and work from there to evaluate the methods used by your local officials. Maybe they are following the law but are using horrific, bungling, heavy handed and unnecessary methods.  Know the difference.

From the facts, develop a reform strategy instead of unknowingly spreading misinformation through social media and emails. That does not help the Great Cause of Liberty!  

This can be a highly instructive moment
in time, or it can be utterly destructive.
Your reputation and credibility
 can be blown to bits.

I certainly don’t want that to happen to any of you; therefore, I strongly advise against jumping to conclusions and using 24/7 news cycle policy pundits and “legal scholar” contributors as your sole source of information.  

First, the baseline – conservatives say they value facts and the rule of law, right? Then, we need to arm ourselves with facts by 1) determining the controlling legal authority (jurisdiction) in a specific situation and then 2) review the statutes – laws on the books – that the jurisdictional authority must rely upon to deal with a given situation.

In other words, don’t go telling God and everybody
that your county judge and mayor
don’t have the authority to do XYZ
unless you are sure there is not a state statute
that gives them that authority! 

Second, if the State of Texas does not give local government a power, local government officials CANNOT make that power up for themselves!  You need to know the difference so that you can hold your elected officials accountable to the rule of law as well as the manner in which they carry out their duties!

After you read through the following statutes
that empower cities and counties
during public health and safety “emergencies,”
many of you will be shocked
as you learn some surprising things. 

You may discover laws that you believe need repealing or changing. If so, there is a lawful process – the legislative process – to make changes in the law. Start making a list that you and/or your organization can use to start talking to your state representatives and state senators. 

If you believe a current law on the books is unconstitutional, you can absolutely seek legal representation if you believe your constitutional rights have been violated.  We have no doubt that there are some elected officials in both parties and certainly in “non-partisan” city government who will try to take advantage of any crisis. That’s what the power-hungry do.

Just please, please, please do not act
like Leftists who think the rule of law
only applies to laws they like! 

And to elected officials – the way you communicate through the spoken and written word makes all the difference in the world.  You can save yourselves and your constituents heartburn by 1) citing statutes that you believe give you the authority to take any given action listed in an order; and 2) tell the community that you do not intend to just take or commandeer private property under the law without compensation. Nobody likes a tyrant – so don’t act like one.  

Instead, let the public know the needs of the community.  If you need property for a temporary health care facility or testing station, communicate the need first.  Explain it. If you need help from the private sector, ask.

The Golden Rule really works when it’s tried. Here in Smith County (population 230,000) our local officials are doing a great job of holding televised news conferences stressing personal responsibility and neighbor helping neighbor.  Around here, the officials ask for help and they get it. Nobody threatens to commandeer anything.

As a self-term-limited former county official,
I always respected citizens who had done their homework
before they addressed the Court.
Those who were prepared got my attention
much faster than the folks just shooting from the hip! 

To help you with your “homework,” I’ve assembled relevant sources where you can learn much about Emergency Declarations for Public Health and Safety and the statutory authority given to local government by the state legislature.  Don’t rely on hearsay or what a commentator says on television.  Read it for yourself. Then educate and empower others to work for any needed reforms. 

There are many statutes, rules, and regulations related to emergency management by different governmental entities. The following are the Texas State Statutes, which include relevant language for local governments dealing with the spread of communicable diseases.  (Click on the colored links to open the documents.)

The Texas Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Act is found here: HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE, CHAPTER 81. COMMUNICABLE DISEASES

A city can take any action necessary to promote health and suppress disease under Texas Health & Safety Code Sections 122.005 (general law) and 122.006 (home rule). These actions could include quarantine, examining and regulating hospitals, regulating ingress and egress from the city, and fining those who do not comply with the city’s rules.

The Texas Disaster Act of 1975 is found in Chapter 418 of the State Government Code.  It includes language concerning the powers of the Governor when managing a state of emergency. This chapter includes language about declaring a state of disaster and the Governor’s power to commandeer private property (418.017). In Sec. 418.108. DECLARATION OF LOCAL DISASTER, you will find language regarding restriction of travel and under what conditions the powers of a county judge supersede those of a mayor!

More information can be found in the implementation guide published by the Department of State Health Services titled, “A Guide for Health Authorities in a Public Health Emergency.”

Respectfully serving,

PS If you will discipline yourself to speak from a position of authority – from facts – and not raw emotion, you will earn credibility with those you are trying to influence.

A dear, departed, wise mentor quoted this Louis Pasteur-ism to me often, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” 

“So, prepare your minds for action, be completely sober [in spirit—steadfast, self-disciplined, spiritually and morally alert], fix your hope completely on the grace [of God] that is coming to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:13