Sen. Johnson files bills to “correct misguided state policy” on COVID-19

In what his office called an effort to “correct misguided state policy” concerning COVID-19, Sen. Nathan Johnson (D) filed four bills on Sunday that would defy Gov. Greg Abbott’s long standing opposition to mask and vaccine mandates.

The legislation, per Johnson’s own statement, is largely symbolic and unlikely to gain traction in the Texas’s Republican-controlled legislature — particularly during the state’s second special session.

 

 

“This is how a responsible government would address these COVID issues. Alas, I do not expect these simple, sensible, and publicly popular bills to receive a hearing.”

SB 93 amends a law passed during this year’s special session that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. Johnson’s version clarifies that owners of bars, concert halls, theaters, and other large gatherings can require proof of vaccine or proof of COVID immunity. 

A related bill, SB 92, would prevent private individuals from suing businesses that choose to enforce such mandates.

“This is about allowing private business owners to protect their customers and employees. It makes no sense to bar them from doing it.” 

Johnson’s other two bills concern mask mandates, which Abbott prohibited in an executive order in July. SB 94 would allow school districts to require facial coverings in schools. In the event of a positive COVID case, this bill would also require schools to notify the parents of every student in the same class as the COVID-positive student.

SB 95 amends the state law concerning the governor’s authority to issue executive orders to prohibit him from barring the enforcement of mask mandates in higher education institutions, school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, municipalities, counties, or health authorities.

“Given the choice between in-person class with masks or virtual class without masks, most of us would choose in-person with masks. Let the schools and local authorities do what they need to do to stay open while protecting the health of the individuals and communities they serve.”