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Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas issued an order on Tuesday that will bar local governments and public schools from having mask mandates, the latest in a string of states issuing similar bans.
“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.”
Under the order, governments or officials trying to institute a mask mandate could face fines up to $1,000 starting Friday. The order doesn’t go into effect for schools until after June 4, and “state-supported living centers,” government-owned or run hospitals, prisons and jails are exempt from the ban.

Abbott’s move is the latest among similar state bans on local mask mandates, following orders from Republican governors this month in Florida and South Carolina. According to the Florida Department of Education, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ May 3 order does not apply to public schools — just local governments — while South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s May 11 order applies to both schools and local governments. DeSantis’ order also suspended local pandemic restrictions.
Abbott hasn’t shied away from controversial pandemic policies. In early March, he moved before many states to lift statewide Covid restrictions, ending a statewide mask mandate and allowing all businesses to open at full capacity.
At the time, President Joe Biden laid into Abbott and other governors lifting restrictions, saying such moves were “Neanderthal thinking.” Texas ultimately didn’t suffer another Covid surge after Abbott made the dramatic move in March, and like many states, it has seen case rates fall with more vaccinations being administered

Abbott’s most recent move comes as many states have changed or revisited their masking policies in the wake of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance last week

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, which said it was safe for fully vaccinated people to go maskless in any type of gathering.
With 60 percent of U.S. adults now having gotten at least one vaccine dose, according to the CDC, many states, including Maryland and Virginia, have lifted their indoor mask mandates, as have retail giants like Walmart and Costco. Others, including New Jersey, have been more cautious, with Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, declining to toss out the state’s indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people, making New Jersey one of the only states to still have one.
Masks have been highly politicized throughout the pandemic, and many Republican lawmakers rebelled over the House’s mask mandate on Tuesday. About a dozen GOP lawmakers refused to mask up on Tuesday evening in spite of potential fines, standing in front of C-SPAN cameras.

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Border Crisis

Texas to Build Its Own Border Barriers, Says Governor

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott told Breitbart Texas the State will immediately begin building border barriers in areas where migrants can easily cross the Rio Grande border with Mexico. The barriers will, in part, enable state law enforcement to arrest migrants for violations of state law.
Abbott said Texas will immediately begin construction of border barriers in areas like Del Rio where migrants can easily cross unsecured sections. The governor picked Del Rio as the location for his  announcement due to the massive increases in illegal border crossings in this region. Del Rio Sector agents apprehended 27,890 migrants — a 1,118 percent increase over the May 2020 report of 2,289, Breitbart Texas reported on Thursday.

“The influx across the border is out of control, and the Biden Administration has shown that is not going to step up and do its job,” Governor Abbott told Breitbart Texas shortly before the public announcement on Thursday. “And amidst reports of even more people coming in across the border, we know we have to step up and do more.”
“The reason why we are here (Del Rio) is because of the massive increase,” the governor stated. Border crossings used to be highly “concentrated in the Rio Grande Valley,” he explained. “Now, you know we’re upstream from the Rio Grande Valley in the Del Rio Sector and the Del Rio sector is suffering from some of the largest increases.”
He said they are hearing from local residents and elected and law enforcement officials that they are seeing things they have never seen before.

“They’re seeing a lot of very bad dangerous people come across the border,” Abbott continued. “People that they are afraid of encountering, people who are causing damage to their fences, their livestock, their crops, their neighborhoods, and their homes.”
“Bad things are happening around here, and so they need help from the state to help them address this exploding crisis.”
The governor said authorities will use existing authorities under a State of Emergency declaration to crack down on those illegally crossing the border.
“What people have seen in videos across the country seems to be the Biden Administration welcoming these people to the United States,” Abbott stated. “We won’t be sending that message.”
Instead, the governor said, “If you come to Texas, you’re subject to being arrested. You’re not going to have a pathway to roam the country. You’re going to have a pathway directly into a jail cell.”

“We want to be very aggressive in working with local officials and begin making mass arrests,” Abbott stated. “In working in collaboration with a large number of counties — that means we’re going to be arresting a lot more people.”
The governor said this will create the need across the state for a lot more jails.
The governor explained that the barriers serve two functions in the battle against illegal border crossings. The first being physical deterrence. The second, “If they [migrants] move or interfere with that barrier, they have committed several crimes.”
Those crimes include criminal mischief, vandalism of state property or local government property, and criminal trespass.
In addition, the recent declaration of a State of Emergency by the State of Texas causes the penalties for these crimes to increase by one level.
“That means up to 180 days in jail,” Abbott continued. “Something that may be a Class B misdemeanor right now, turned into a class A misdemeanor. And so they can get into a lot of trouble.”
“There’s even potential for state jail felonies for some of these crimes,” he explained. “So they can wind up in jail for a long time.”
Abbott said they have identified more than 1,000 jail cells that can be used to hold arrested migrants. They will begin actively working with local and state officials to identify more space. He said they may consider building additional jail space in the form of soft-sided facilities.
To help facilitate this effort, Governor Abbott teamed up with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to call on fellow governors across the nation to provide assistance in the ongoing border crisis.
“With your help, we can apprehend more of these perpetrators of state and federal crimes before they can cause problems in your state,” the two governors advised. “Texas and Arizona have stepped up to secure the border in the federal government’s absence, and now, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact gives your State a chance to stand strong with us.”
Abbott said he anticipates a “high level of participation.”
“I’ll tell you why,” he continued. “The immigration issue and the border issue is not just the number one issue of Texas, it’s the number one issue in America. And so all of these other governors, they hear the same concerns that we hear about in Texas.”
Abbott concluded the one-on-one interview, saying, “Texas already has done more than any other state to secure the border, but we know that more has to be done. And we’re stepping up to undertake an unprecedented response to the border crisis caused by the federal government.”
“In the end, only the federal government and Congress can fix this, but as it stands right now, the state of Texas is going to step up and we’re going to start making arrests — sending a message to anybody thinking about coming here,  you’re not going to get a free pass to the U.S. They’re getting a straight pass to a jail cell.”

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Politics

How Trump got a Bush to bend the knee

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No Republican political family has been as tormented by Donald Trump as the Bush dynasty.
Now Trump has one more opportunity to twist the knife, as George P. Bush — the last remaining Bush in public office — prepares to launch a primary challenge Wednesday against Texas GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton.
In what’s expected to be a brutal contest pitting the Bush family scion against a scandal-plagued incumbent, Trump’s endorsement will go a long way toward determining the winner. The former president remains popular with the Texas Republican base — so popular that Bush, Jeb Bush’s son and currently the state’s land commissioner, has studiously avoided his family’s entanglements with Trump.

“It’s going to be the Holy War of Texas. We haven’t seen a battle like this since the siege at the Alamo,” said Jeff Roe, a Republican strategist and top adviser to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016.
“George P. is both the heir and protector of a historic Texas political dynasty, but this is a race against a two-term incumbent attorney general,” Roe said. “A line in the sand will be drawn, and people will have to choose sides. Everyone always thought George P. would carry the family banner into the next generation, but I’m not sure anyone anticipated it happening like this.”
Trump’s antipathy for two generations of Bushes has tarnished a once-mighty brand that once was synonymous with the Republican Party in Texas and across the country. Trump humiliated Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential primaries and briefly amplified a vicious tweet that said the former Florida governor “has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife,” a reference to Columba Bush, Jeb’s wife and George P.’s mother, who was born in Mexico and is an American citizen.

Jeb, former President George W. Bush and their parents, former President George H. W Bush and Barbara Bush, havebeen critical of Trump in turn.
Even so, George P. Bush endorsed Trump in his reelection last year.
On Monday, Bush tweeted a picture of himself talking on the phone with the former president, saying that it’s “great to speak with President Trump to discuss the future of Texas and how we are keeping up the fight to put America first. I appreciate the words of encouragement and support.”
Asked about his son’s tweet, Jeb Bush said via email: “I love my son.”
According to Roe and interviews with a dozen other top state GOP strategists, George P. Bush needs to maintain the charm offensive with Trump to keep him from endorsing Paxton, who has skillfully used his post as state attorney general to promote and tie himself to Trump as president. It was Paxton who led the unsuccessful effort to have the Supreme Court overturn the 2020 election and, since then, he has attacked President Joe Biden’s policies in court.
But Paxton is under state criminal indictment for securities fraud and is the subject of a separate FBI corruption investigation making him particularly vulnerable to challenge.
“I like them both very much. I’ll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the great people of Texas in the not-so-distant future,” Trump said Tuesday in a written statement. “I told Texas that Sleepy Joe would be against guns, oil, and God, and I was right!” (Biden is for gun control, is trying to wean the nation off fossil fuels but is a regular churchgoer).
Trump endorsed both Paxton and Bush in their respective 2018 primaries. But Bush wasn’t facing a candidate with such strong MAGA credentials as Paxton, whom most insiders think has the best shot at landing the former president’s support.
Trump’s statement that he likes each candidate “very much” was a small coup for a Bush — and a positive return on a political investment that Bush made five years ago. In 2016, George P. Bush surprised some in the political world by announcing that he would support the presidential campaign of the man who trashed his dad as “low energy Jeb.”
Bush also oversaw Texas fundraising for Trump in 2016 and endorsed him again in 2020 — less than a year after his own dad mused about someone needing to primary the president.
Throughout Trump’s various scandals and controversies, George P. Bush never spoke out against him. He even went so far as to publicly back the ouster of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney — daughter of George W. Bush’s vice president — from House GOP leadership for her vote to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
“Don’t get me wrong: George P. has played this exactly right, and he’s definitely more conservative than his dad, and Trump knows that,” said one Trump confidante who discussed the race with him recently. “But I can tell you the president enjoys the prospect of knowing how much it kills Jeb that his son has to bend the knee and kiss the ring. Who’s your daddy? Trump loves that.”
Another Trump adviser who has spoken to him about George P. Bush said Trump has a pet name for him, “My Bush,” and has publicly referred to him as “the only Bush who got it right.”
It’s a harsh dismissal for a political dynasty that has, in total, produced two presidents, a vice president, two governors, a senator and a congressman. George P. Bush, the grandson of the 41st president and nephew of the 43rd president, has long been seen as a future presidential prospect himself.
“If you live in Texas and you have political aspirations, that’s part of the game plan. I don’t see how he can avoid it and be successful in Texas … He doesn’t want the Trump base to look at him skeptically,” said Al Cardenas, an anti-Trump Republican and close friend to Jeb Bush who once served as the Republican Party of Florida chair.
Cardenas, echoing other survivors of Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign, said he hasn’t talked personally with Jeb Bush about his son’s campaigns “on purpose. He’s my friend, and I don’t want to talk about it with him. From my perspective, I’ve known George P. since he was born. I love him. It’s one of those exceptions to the rule you have in life. People you love and care for, you make an exception for.”
Eric Mahroum, deputy director for Trump’s 2016 campaign in Texas, said George P. Bush’s Trump support was a matter of principle. When the decision is explained to Republicans, he says, it works to Bush’s benefit because it shows “he’s his own man … he put his feelings aside. He put Texans first, his country and the party first.”
Mahroum acknowledges that the Bush brand — though still strong in the state — took a hit with a segment of the GOP because of the family’s well-publicized criticisms of Trump.
“We still have to educate the broader base. I go around and tell people what he did, and a lot of them are like ‘Wow. Ok. I’m glad to hear that,’” Mahroum said, throwing shade at Paxton. In 2016, Paxton backed Cruz in the presidential primaries and “was nowhere to really be found until the midterms, and all of a sudden he’s a Trump supporter,” he says.
Paxton’s office and his campaign did not return requests for comment. A spokesperson for George P. Bush declined comment.
Paxton is widely seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican statewide officeholders in Texas.
In 2018, when both Bush and Paxton were up for their first reelections to their respective offices, Bush won by more than 10 percentage points and Paxton won by less than 4, nagged by the criminal indictment in state court that has dragged on for nearly six years due to legal complications over the court venue. Paxton dismissed the charges as politicalA bigger scandal erupted last year when he fired top aides who accused him of bribery and trading favors with a campaign donor involving home remodeling work and a job for his mistress

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. They have filed a whistleblower suit and the FBI is investigating.
A top Texas Republican said that with others eyeing the race, it was smart for Bush to jump in first against a hobbled Paxton.
“It’s like he’s the first hunter out there thinking that not only is the lion wounded, but he has an infection, and he’s gonna die. So he wants to be the first hunter out there to get the trophy of the lion, and he’ll be ahead of the three other hunters who come later,” the Republican said. “But if the lion beats the infection, it’s gonna turn on him, and he’ll be the only hunter out there, and the lion is going to turn on him and eat him up.”
With access to a wide fundraising network, Bush could have a financial edge in the massive state over Paxton, who is expected to have trouble with major donors as the investigations into him drag on.
If the attorney general wasn’t hamstrung by the multiple investigations, Republicans say, Bush would probably have stayed put in the state land commissioner’s office. Paxton is well-liked by the MAGA grassroots, many of whom are not as enthusiastic about electing a Bush.
“The problem for the commissioner at this point in time is that, in spite of having his own political identity separate from the Bush family brand, he hasn’t yet had a strong foothold with the grassroots and Republican primary voters,” said Republican consultant Jessica Colon. “This is a primary fight. And he’s just running against a conservative who has not shied away from conservative base ideology.”
Matt Angle, who leads the Texas-based Democratic Lone Star Project, called Bush’s effort a “pander campaign” with Trump that proved “his blood is thinner than his ambition.” He said Bush will have other troubles for briefly getting in a needlessly “stupid fight” with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a group called Daughters of the Republic of Texas over renovations to the Alamo. And he’s now embroiled in a controversy in Houston’s Harris County — the largest in the state — over flood mitigation money needed after Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017.
“He lacks the likability of his uncle and the competence of his father and grandfather,” Angle said, adding that it was “pretty remarkable that the Bush name was the gold standard for Texas GOP acceptance five years ago, and now it’s like lead boots.”
Veteran Texas pollster Bob Stein, a political science professor who once had George P. Bush as a student at Rice University, said that “he’s a man in the middle, and there’s no middle … George P. is in an awful position.”
But Derek Ryan, one of Texas’s top GOP data experts, said it’s too early to write anyone off, though it’s safe to predict that Paxton will try to make the race about Bush’s ambition and family name while Bush will make the race about corruption and electability — a major factor for Trump in deciding an endorsement.
“It’s going to be the third race down the ballot, but it’s going to be the nastiest,” Ryan said. “Everybody’s going to look at this race, and it’s going to boil down to Trump vs. Bush.”
And that makes it crucial for Bush to communicate with primary voters that “he hasn’t taken shots at Trump, hasn’t picked fights with him,” said Republican consultant Brendan Steinhauser.
“If he can have parity with Paxton and they can both be seen as loyal enough or supportive enough, it makes it an interesting race,” Steinhauser said, comparing Bush’s balancing act in the Trump era to that of Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Gov. Greg Abbott. He said all three have solid support from “business Republicans, moderate Republicans and conservative voters who are not totally MAGA. They don’t go to war with them or offend the MAGA crowd.”
Kevin Roberts, CEO of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation nonprofit, said Trump will be a defining issue in the race as will a candidate’s willingness to fight Biden and the left like the former president. And while Roberts carefully refrained from talking about Bush or Paxton, the Texas primary electorate he described favors an attorney general who cut his political teeth suing President Obama and now Biden and supporting Trump in between.
“The difference between traditional conservatism and Trump conservatism in Texas is that Trump conservatives want to fight,” Roberts said. “They want to charge hills. They don’t want to be told one thing and then have their leaders not deliver on that.”
The chair of the Travis County GOP in Austin, Matt Mackowiak, credited Bush for standing by Trump.
“I’m sure that made for difficult conversations at Thanksgiving and Kennebunkport,” Mackowiak said, referencing the Bush family estate in Maine. Mackowiak added that Trump could have his own challenges in backing the commissioner.
“It’s hard for Trump to endorse any Bush for any office anywhere in a primary like this,” he said. “I don’t know if the base would accept it.”


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Texas

Watch Texas Governor Sign Law Preventing Cities From Banning Use Of Natural Gas

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that prohibits cities from banning natural gas utilities. Because it received overwhelming support in the House and the Senate, the law takes effect immediately.

House Bill 17 was introduced by state Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, in response to municipalities taking measures to ban the use of natural gas.

Berkeley, California, for example, banned gas hook-ups for new construction in order to “minimize carbon impact.”

And the city of Austin introduced a “climate action plan” that would have virtually eliminated gas use in new buildings by 2030. The city’s plan was altered after Texas Gas Service opposed the measure, the Texas Observer, reported. But now the law would prevent such a plan altogether.

The city of Dallas also attempted to ban natural gas in home appliances and heating systems.

The new law was hailed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation as a way to prevent municipalities from “creating California-style bans on natural gas utilities.”

TPPF’s Jason Isaacs argues that municipalities that ban the use of natural gas do not improve the environment or impact climate change in any meaningful way. Instead, they increase costs for consumers, and specifically the cost of living for low-income families who can least afford increased electric prices.

“Texans should be allowed the freedom to make this choice for themselves, particularly since studies show banning natural gas in homes would have no meaningful impact on our environment,” Isaacs said.

Texas also follows a similar move made by Arizona, whose legislature last year also barred cities form implementing natural gas bans. Other states like Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Oklahoma either passed similar bans or have proposed them.
The laws, in general, prohibit municipalities from banning natural gas hookups, preserving consumer choice and preventing a patchwork of regulations.

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