March 27, 2020

Key Democrat Sees Patrick and President
Virus Views as Horror Show Prescription

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

An influential Texas lawmaker warned Friday that some major GOP leaders could be taking the state down a path of unfathomable death and economic destruction with attempts to undermine social isolation mandates that local officials on both sides of the aisle have imposed in the fight against the coronavirus.

Democratic State Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston suggested that President Donald Trump and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick were masking a self-serving political agenda behind a push to have the economy back to business as usual in defiance of experts who are pleading for a more deliberated approach.

Tea party conservatives in Texas were on the same basic page with Patrick and Trump, however, contending that city and county officials have been overstepping their bounds with edicts that have temporarily shut down businesses that aren't deemed to be essential for basic survival.

Some prominent Republicans on the hard right like Empower Texans boss Michael Quinn Sullivan are questioning the legality of the stringent local restrictions while blasting the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency package that the Senate approved on a unanimous vote on Thursday as an unprecedented intrusion of big government on the constitutional rights of individual citizens.

Speaking out in his role as the chairman of the Texas Legislative Study Group, Coleman said the president and the state Senate leader could be setting the stage for a public heath and economic disaster of cataclysmic magnitude by touting a premature end to stay-at-home orders that are in effect in most of the major urban areas in Texas and across the nation.

Coleman expressed serious concerns that the Trump and Patrick approach could have the opposite effect on the state and national economy than the results that they claim to be seeking with public statements that have flown in the face of professional expertise. The veteran lawmaker who's been a longtime leader at the Capitol in the arena of public health said that the workforce in Texas would be devastated with an exponential increase in coronavirus cases if the people here take the powerful Republican pair's advice.

"This deadly path would harm the economy, not help it," Coleman said in an email today. "When such high-profile leaders fail to act based on scientific expertise, they endanger all our lives, and especially the front-line heroes who must all too often treat a deadly viral enemy without the protective gear and equipment they need."

Coleman said that Governor Greg Abbott had agreed this week to his request for a federal waiver on Medicaid restrictions to help ensure that elderly Texans and children in poor families have access to critical health services during the coronavirus emergency.

The Legislative Study Group is an official caucus that's technically non-partisan. All of the 70 state lawmakers on the current LSG roster are Democrats. State Senator Royce West - a Dallas Democrat who's dueling MJ Hegar of Round Rock in a primary runoff for the U.S. Senate - is a member of the organization that Coleman founded and leads.

Abbott has postponed the overtime vote that was initially set for late May to July 14. While Abbott has rejected calls for a statewide shelter-in-place order, the governor has voiced his support for those that mayors and county judges have issued in areas that have been hardest hit by COVID-19.

Trump has been effectively dismissing words of caution from experts with a plan to have life return to normal in America in two weeks. Patrick - the president's number one ally in the Lone Star State - contended this week that senior citizens like himself would be willing to sacrifice their lives to get the economy back on track as quickly as possible.


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