HOUSTON – A Harris County Commissioner is calling for changes when it comes to the county judge’s emergency powers.
Judge Lina Hidalgo was granted more authority under the state’s disaster declaration during the peak of the pandemic in 2020.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle’s proposal to strip the judge of her emergency powers failed in a 3-2 vote Tuesday afternoon.
Back on March 10, Judge Hidalgo lowered the Covid threat level to yellow, citing lower hospitalization rates and cases dropping to safer levels.
“We’re at level yellow. President Biden has said let’s get back to normal. It’s time we get back to normal,” commissioner Cagle said.
Doing away with the emergency powers Judge Hidalgo was granted back in March of 2020 at the start of the pandemic, also falls under that umbrella, said Cagle.
Because of the extraordinary public health risk at the time, for the past two years, Hidalgo was able to approve contracts, make purchases for the county, and suspend public notice requirements, among other things.
“Now that we’re yellow, the rationale or the need to have the ability to be able to make decisions in the back doors instead of in the front, before the public, that rationale is gone,” Cagle said.
While Cagle’s proposal failed in a 3-2 vote, KPRC 2 Analyst and former Harris County Judge, Ed Emmett, said emergency powers weren’t meant to be in play this long.
“The pandemic is not the type of emergency that requires instantaneous decisions. It’s very easy for the commissioner’s court to come together, talk about a subject and then make a decision. Evidently, what happened in Harris County is when they granted them, they said these will last as long as the governor’s, but that’s not the law, that’s a county commissioner decision,” Emmett said.
KPRC 2 reached out to Judge Hidalgo’s office for a comment, but we are still waiting on a response.