Last month, TPPF’s James Quintero testified before the Senate Committee on State Affairs in support of Senate Bill 1025 and Senate Joint Resolution 45, a bill and a constitutional amendment proposing an overhaul of the emergency powers provided by the Texas Disaster Act of 1975. Both proposals have been fully passed by the Texas Senate and referred to the House Committee on State Affairs.
Below are Quintero’s prepared remarks delivered orally to the committee. Written testimony can be found here.
My name is James Quintero and I am a policy director at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. I’m here today to testify in support of SB 1025 and SJR 45.
In evaluating the Foundation’s position on this legislation, I sought to answer two questions.
- First, does the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 need reform to better balance the exercise of government power with the enjoyment of individual liberty?
- Second, do the bills achieve that balance? Or at least make substantial progress in that direction.
Here is what I concluded.
- To the first question, the answer is yes, we can do more to balance power and liberty in times of crisis. Over the past year, we’ve all watched as Texas governments deviated from their intended purpose of protecting life, liberty, and property. That experience is proof positive that targeted reforms to 418 are needed.
- To the second question, the answer is also yes, the proposed legislation does a fine job recognizing the occasional need for decisive action during a disaster and the perennial desire to be free and operate within the framework of a constitutional republic. Let me explain further.
The legislation before the committee today is anchored around a few central elements that include:
- Affirming an important structural precept established since the founding, which is that under our system of government, the legislature has primacy in creating, voiding, and nullifying laws.
- Making explicit that some authority is reserved solely for the legislative branch.
- Clarifying the roles of the executive and the legislature during times of prolonged disaster.
- Creating a legislative check on executive overreach, in whatever form that may manifest in the future.
And so by establishing a more proper place for the legislature in the process, enshrining its role, clarifying the law, and enhancing our system of checks-and-balances, this proposed legislation moves our state’s disaster laws in a much-needed direction.
I’ll leave you with the words of James Madison who said: “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” SB 1025 and SJR 45 very much help with the latter.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to answering any questions that you may have.