DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Fireworks at a Dallas County Commissioners Court emergency meeting to consider a county-wide face covering policy.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has recently advocated for state mandates allowing local governments to be allowed to do more to require and compel people to wear face masks. But Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order bans local governments from imposing fines or criminal penalties on people who don’t wear masks in public.
Abbott is however supported moves by officials in Bexar and Hidalgo counties requiring face masks in businesses.
Saying that the move, if approved, will “save countless lives”, Jenkins has pushed for mask requirements as Texas continues to set records for the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19.
Starting promptly at 8:00 a.m. commissioners gathered and Judge Jenkins, via video conference, outlined some of his thoughts about putting a masking plan into place to make “a statement of encouragement to the whole community” and actually help business, especially those most impacted by the economic shutdown.
Commissioner John Wiley Price said he was concerned about unequal treatment and undue impact on black businesses and suggested the county simply let the free market control their businesses. “I don’t want to be in a legislative position trying to legislate for them.”
Saying she agreed with Price, Dr. Elba Garcia said, “I don’t want enforcement. All along I have said that I support wearing masks 100% but not with law enforcement, with any kind of enforcement, other than a citation.”
Commissioner J.J. Koch then made an impassioned statement saying, “I very much appreciate that you’ve used over and over again [the word] leadership. Now it’s incumbent upon business leadership to make clear what they can do and what they can do currently, what they’re allowed to do by law, is to restrict people from coming into their business without a mask and they can require their employees to wear a mask. But what is extremely difficult to stomach is that without our “leadership,” if you will, you can’t do this. Our leadership comes with guys with guns. We’ve just finished a long dialogue and discussion in this court and in other places about enforcement of minor offences that ends up leading to situation where minorities end up with a guy on the back of their neck.”
After much debate as to who would be fined and who would issue citations or enforce penalties, the court voted 3-2 to approve an order requiring businesses to request that customers wear a mask or covering or a face a fine of up to $500.
The order was amended to reduce the amount of the fine does not include law enforcement carrying out any punishments.
The final vote had Judge Jenkins, Commissioners Dr. Theresa Daniel, and Garcia voting in favor of the mandate. Commissioners Koch and Price voted ney.
The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on June 19.