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Texas Supreme Court Sides With Abbott, Blocks Mask Mandates
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announces the reopening of more Texas businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Monday, May 18, 2020. Abbott said that childcare facilities, youth camps, some professional sports, and bars may now begin to fully or partially reopen their facilities as outlined by regulations listed on the Open Texas website. (Lynda M. Gonzalez/The Dallas Morning News Pool)
Lynda M. Gonzalez/The Dallas Morning News Pool via Getty Images

The Texas Supreme Court temporarily banned mask mandates across the state on Sunday, delivering a win for Governor Greg Abbott (R).

Abbott petitioned the court for a stay on lower court rulings that allowed local governments and school boards to reinstate mask mandates for their jurisdictions. The state Supreme Court granted Abbott’s request, temporarily banning local mask mandates while the court works on a final ruling, according to the San Antonio Express-News

Abbott banned mask mandates and other restrictive health orders statewide last month, saying in a statement: “The new Executive Order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates. Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities. Vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus, and they will always remain voluntary – never forced – in the State of Texas.”

Abbott’s order banned mask mandates and so-called “vaccine passports,” or requiring someone to reveal their vaccine status before being allowed to enter a building or participate in an activity. The governor took action after a number of local governments and school boards began reinstating lockdown measures.

Some local officials pledged to move forward with mask mandates despite the court’s ruling.

“The City of San Antonio and Bexar County’s response to the Texas Supreme Court continues to emphasize that the Governor cannot use his emergency powers to suspend laws that provide local entities the needed flexibility to act in an emergency,” San Antonio attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement. “His suspension authority is meant to facilitate action, not prohibit it.”

Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, told The New York Times: “Until there’s an official order of the court that applies to the Dallas Independent School District, we will continue to have the mask mandate.”

“We will comply when the court order applies to us,” he added.

Abbott’s win in the Supreme Court comes off the heels of another favorable decision over Abbott’s veto of funding for the Texas legislature. The governor defunded the legislature, effectively stripping lawmakers and staff of their salaries, after a group of Texas Democrats fled the House chamber over proposed election reform.

Dozens of lawmakers walked out, denying the body the quorum necessary to pass legislation. As The Daily Wire reported on the state Supreme Court decision:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) vetoed funding for the state legislature in June to withhold paychecks from Democratic lawmakers. Abbott took action after Democrats stalled Republican-backed legislation by refusing to attend votes on the bills, breaking quorum, and blocking the Texas House from conducting business.

Soon after Abbott cut funding to the legislature, Democrats petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to intervene and overturn the governor’s veto of state funding. The court denied the request, saying that the fight Democrats asked the court to resolve is not between two coequal branches of government, but within one branch, namely the legislature, and outside of the court’s purview.

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