“Stephens County shall not, in accordance with state and federal law, take any direct action against any businesses or individuals based solely on their actual or perceived business status,” reads the resolution, nearly identical to the one passed by Eastland County last week.
Both the Stephens and Eastland resolutions signal to businesses that the county does not support the enforcement of Governor Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 executive order that currently restricts capacity to 50 percent in most businesses.
The resolutions declare that all businesses are “essential.” Essential businesses, as defined by the federal government, do not have capacity restrictions under Abbott’s orders.
While the resolutions demonstrate the counties’ support for reopening, it will still be up to the county sheriffs, attorneys, and judges to decide if they will enforce the lockdown regulations.
Moreover, state agencies, such as the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), are not prohibited by the resolution from enforcing the capacity regulations.
However, state agencies have yet to take any enforcement actions relating to Abbott’s capacity limitations — those regulations have only been enforced by local law enforcement.
The Stephens County resolution does differ from the Eastland resolution in a few respects.
First, unlike the Eastland resolution, the Stephens resolution did not use the vocabulary of a “sanctuary county for all businesses.”
The pro-business resolutions are similar to the “Second Amendment sanctuary” resolutions passed in rural counties across the state (including Eastland and Stephens), which asserted that the counties would not enforce unconstitutional firearm laws enacted by the state or federal government.
Even with those resolutions, there has been some debate regarding the use of the term “sanctuary,” with some not wanting to be compared to local “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants.
The other main difference between the Eastland and Stephens resolutions was the latter’s addition pertaining to contact tracing.
Several Republican lawmakers have sharply criticized the state for the $295 million contract for contact tracing with the MTX Group.
“[T]he Stephens County Commissioners’ Court, nor the County Judge in his role as Emergency Management Director will not corporate [sic] with the State of Texas’ efforts, through MTX Group, Inc., a newly organized foreign company, to trace local citizens with COVID-19. Rather, Stephens County will continue to provide tracing locally between doctors and patients,” adds the Stephens resolution.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.