Texas Senate approved gutted version of pandemic powers reform

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated the legislation heads to the Governor’s desk. The bill will be sent back to the House for approval before it can advance to the Governor’s desk.

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Legislation to create a streamlined and defined response to future pandemics cleared the Texas Senate Tuesday.

House Bill 3 creates a roadmap for future pandemics to outline the governor’s powers during a disaster. It also limits tools at the disposal of state and local leaders during these disasters.

HB 3 would trigger a special session if the governor wished to extend a disaster declaration for more than one month.

A previous version of the bill passed the House 104-39 earlier this month. It was largely gutted in the Senate State Affairs committee. It passed the Senate with no debate but will go back to the House for approval on the Senate committee changes.

“Only the legislature has the authority to restrict or impair the operation or occupancy of businesses in this state by category or region to appropriately respond to the disaster,” the bill language approved by the Senate reads. “The legislature may only exercise the authority granted by this subsection in a county after consulting with the county judge of each county impacted by the disaster.”

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