The Back MicThe Back Mic: Calls for Fourth Special Session Intensify, Local Emergency Powers Questioned, Field in Open Denton County Seat Develops

This week — calls for a fourth special session intensify, the attorney general is asked to weigh in on county emergency powers, and two candidates aim to succeed Rep. Tan Parker.
November 12, 2021
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Texas GOP and 16 State Legislators Rally Behind Fourth Special Session to Ban Vaccine Mandates

The Republican Party of Texas is lobbying for a fourth special session of the Texas legislature. Its hope is for the body to approve a prohibition of vaccination mandates for both public and private entities.

On Wednesday, it highlighted a list of legislators who’ve echoed their call for a fourth special session. Those members are:

House

  • Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg)
  • Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park)
  • Jeff Cason (R-Bedford)
  • Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian)
  • Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth)
  • Jeff Leach (R-Plano)
  • Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville)
  • Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler)
  • Matt Shaheen (R-Plano)
  • Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City)
  • Valoree Swanson (R-Spring)
  • Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington)
  • Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands)
  • Cody Vasut (R-Angleton)
  • James White (R-Hillister)

Senate

The Texan Tumbler

  • Bob Hall (R-Edgewood)

Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order last month prohibiting any vaccine mandate, a move contradictory to his position a month earlier and one that divided conservatives. Since then, the Biden administration ordered all federal contractors to be vaccinated.

“Even before this radical federal rule went into effect, we saw woke businesses in Texas mandate vaccines for their employees voluntarily and in defiance of Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order,” the Texas GOP said in an email.

“The only way to stop this chaos is with strong legislation, which is why our Republican state legislators must return for a fourth special session to ban vaccine mandates in Texas.”

Texas has sued the White House over the mandate and achieved a preliminary victory in front of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued a temporary restraining order on the federal government’s direction. A final decision is still pending and the White House has since pushed back against Texas.

Paxton Asked for Opinion on Efficacy of “Unilateral” Contracts by Counties

The Nueces County Attorney Jenny Dorsey requested an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) concerning county judges “unilaterally” approving contracts using emergency powers.

Since the pandemic’s beginning, some county judges across Texas have enjoined their localities into contracts for various services without approval from the commissioner’s court.

Dorsey’s letter asks the OAG to opine on whether that runs afoul of Texas law; whether competitive bidding statutes may be suspended in awarding those contracts; whether “ample time” to consult the commissioners court affects the action’s legality; and how far a county judge’s discretion extends during emergency disasters.

One example of these unilateral contracts coming into play were when counties such as Nueces, Harris, and Travis engaged in their own contact tracing programs. A litany of other contracts were negotiated and approved during the height of the pandemic, many of which are tracked here.

The State of Texas also enjoined itself in a contact tracing contract worth $295 million as part of Governor Greg Abbott’s emergency response plan. It was challenged by state legislators in court, which fizzled out.

OAG opinions are non-binding and meant only as legal guidance.

Candidates Emerge to Replace State Rep. Tan Parker

So far, two candidates have filed paperwork to run for House District (HD) 63, currently held by Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) who is running for Senate District 12. This legislative musical chairs comes after Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) announced her retirement after nearly 30 years in the Senate.

The first to file was real estate businessman Scott Smith.

Smith did not respond to questions sent to his campaign by this article’s publishing.

Flower Mound City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Ben Bumgarner jumped into the race on Wednesday.

“Every single day I hear the same thing from Texans: our values are under attack, our property taxes are too high, and career politicians have forgotten about us. It’s devastating that people feel like they’re not being heard,” Bumgarner said in a press release announcing his candidacy.

He added, “If the pandemic showed us anything, it was that the government has grown far too large and too intrusive. I mean, how many of us were appalled during the pandemic when the government shut down our churches? When they shut down our businesses?”

The candidate primary filing deadline is about two months away, at which point the fields for each seat will be solidified.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.