81ºF

Who will ultimately decide if a city or county will reopen? Here’s how Abbott and local leaders say it will work.

photo

HOUSTON – Gov. Greg Abbott has been working to reopen the state and is expected to issue a new executive order on April 27 pertaining to the stay-home order that is in effect statewide.

The state’s current stay home order is in effect until April 30, but Abbott said the new order will be the standard going forward.

Dallas County announced Tuesday that it would extend its stay home order into May, but according to Abbott, his new order would have a statewide application that would overrule any local order.

“As you know I will be issuing a new executive order … there will either be portions of that (order) or all of that (order) that have statewide application. The extent to which it falls under those two categories will be determined between now and April 27,” Abbot said. “To the extent that my executive order has statewide application, it would overrule any local jurisdiction determination about their executive order.”

Harris County and the City of Houston have an order that is in effect until April 30, which currently coincides with the governor’s order. Any changes would be determined when Abbott issues the new order.

According to Mayor Sylvester Turner, the decisions about closures, cancelations and the stay home order in March were all made at a local level, and Abbott had stated that those choices were up to local leaders.

However, Turner said during a news conference Tuesday that Abbott is in his full authority to override local government.

“Those were local decisions,” Turner said. “Now, it is true, as a governor, he has the authority to set the timelines in terms of what opens up, and his order will supersede counties and cities.”

Turner said his concern is that the messages coming from state and local governments coincide.

“It is important for all of us, as much as possible, to put forth the same message so that the messaging is not confusing and people don’t have a misunderstanding,” Turner said. “When you have asked people to stay home and make huge sacrifices for 35 to 40 days, naturally they are anxious to get back out and they are listening to us to say, ‘is it OK? Is it safe? Are we going to be alright?’ If the messaging becomes conflicting, it becomes very difficult to ask people to continue to make these sacrifices.”

When asked about his comment, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she had been working closely with Abbott to establish testing sites and talk about how to get back on track.

“I think in many ways we are at a great place in terms of bipartisanship, particularly given the vitriol, the division that was going on just before this crisis,” Hidalgo said. “I don’t think it’s the time to try and stir things up. I don’t see that battle right now.”


About the Author: