87th LegislatureThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Senator Calls Out DSHS, Allen West at Odds with Bonnen, Lawmaker Says to ‘Open the Capitol’

This week — a senator calls out a state agency, GOP leaders go to blows, and a legislator weighs in on COVID-19 protocols and the upcoming legislative session.
November 13, 2020
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Texas Senator Pens Letter to DSHS

Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) sent a letter to Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt on Thursday regarding negligence in posting the disaster declarations issued by the agency during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“While I do not personally believe that you actually have the statutory authority to keep the state in a public health disaster for nine months, you have, in fact, issued declarations each and every month since March either extending or declaring a ‘new’ disaster,” wrote Hall.

“While I assume the failure to post these declarations could be an oversight on your part and not an intent to keep the content from the public, some of my constituents are very concerned with your actions.”

The North Texas senator has been vocally critical of state leadership since the genesis of the pandemic, going so far as to say “we are expected to live as if we have a monarchy” in light of Governor Greg Abbott’s coronavirus response. 

Allen West Responds to Bonnen Comments

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West responded to critical comments from outgoing Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) made in defense of presumptive-speaker Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont). 

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In a Monday email to supporters, West wrote, “[T]he Republican Party of Texas will not support, nor accept, State Rep. Dade Phelan as Speaker of the Texas House.”

Some GOP legislators came to Phelan’s defense, including Reps. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), Lyle Larson, (R-San Antonio), and James White (R-Hillister). 

Bonnen went on Chad Hasty’s West Texas radio show on Tuesday, saying the chairman needed a “one-way ticket back to Florida,” and calling him “irrelevant” and “petulant.”

On Thursday, Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune reported West’s response to the embattled speaker’s comments.

“It doesn’t matter to me.”

State Representative Comments on Session COVID-19 Protocol 

As the January start of the 87th Legislative Session looms, discussion and rumors regarding the impact COVID-19 will have on the logistics of the legislature. 

State Rep. Jeff Leach shared his thoughts this week on the potential of a session closed to the public. 

“The Texas House is the peoples’ House. Not the politicians’ House. It would be wrong for us to convene for a #txlege session and to exclude the people of Texas,” Leach tweeted. “When we meet, we do so to hear from the people, not to hear from ourselves. Bottom line: Open the Capitol!”

The state representative’s comments come after a survey conducted by Texas House leadership found that a majority of legislators want to limit public access to the capitol during the session. 

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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Senior Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.