Texas governor Greg Abbott sent a message to County Judges around the state that he was going to begin the process of giving mayors some equal footing in Texas.
In a proclamation filed on June 23, 2020 Governor Abbott gave authority to limit the size of public gatherings to 100 people or less. The proclamation was made to amend section 5 of a previously declared executive order. In that new proclamation, Gov. Abbott said that he is allowing for County Judges and Mayors the ability to impose additional restrictions as they see fit.
The proclamation does two things: It allows cities and counties the opportunity to create their own local measures and it sends a message to county judges that mayors are their equal.
County Judges have repeatedly remarked about their “authority” given to them under the law. Now, Gov. Abbott has sent the message that mayors were created at least somewhat equal.
The actual showdown on the issue will likely head for the Texas Legislature when the body convenes in January and will be a showdown between two of the state’s most powerful local governing bodies—the Texas Association of Counties and the Texas Municipal League.
Many lawmakers on both sides have expressed concern about county judges who think that they are “in-charge” and have some kind of overwhelming authority over their people. Gov. Abbott sent a message that tells them to think again.
Experts are warning that the fight would likely be a long and drawn out process. But it is one that both TAC and TML seem to wiling to have under the granite rotunda.
At nearly every single press conference from big city leaders, Texans have consistently reminded about the County Judge having “authority” under the constitution and how they can make orders for all people within their county. Mayors have been rendered essentially useless—especially when the major population center in their county is their city.
There have been obvious philosophical divides from both city and county leaders across the state and while at the moment county judges do have the authority that they claim, those days seem to be seriously numbered and Gov. Abbott is in a way, demanding that the two local entities work together on creating solutions that best meet their local constituency.
Nobody knows just what a bill might look like or who will author it. However, it does seem that Harris County Republican Senator Paul Bettencourt might take the lead. Senator Bettencourt has been very vocal against Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and her handling of the coronavirus situation there.
Time will tell and as for the details on where this is heading, we will likely have to wait until filing day. But you could almost bet that it will be one of the first bills filed for next session.