Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation published the paper Exposing Overreach: Harris County.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local officials have been operating under broad authority placing many new rules and restrictions on Texans and their engagement in everyday activities,” said Shelby Sterling, policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Some of these restrictions, such as social distancing guidelines, are grounded in reason and advance a meaningful public health objection but other constraints have been less reasonable and more constrictive than necessary.”

By and large, the most egregious examples of government overreach have occurred at the local level, with well-intentioned but misguided city and county leaders making controversial decisions.

“One concerning example of government overreach unfolded when a Harris County Judge issued an executive order in April imposing several new demands on the public,” said Michael Haugen, policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The order imposed several new demands on the public, including:

  • All persons over the age of 10 wear a cover on their nose and mouth when in public
  • Residents observe social distancing guidelines when outside of their residence
  • Residents wash their hands before leaving their residence and upon their return
  • Residents avoid touching their noses and faces after leaving their residence

“The most concerning part of the Judge’s order was the criminalization of non-compliance,” said Haugen. “The order contained a provision stipulating that violators could be subject to a ‘fine not to exceed $1,000’ but before the Judge’s order could go into effect, it was amended to be a recommendation with no penalties. While this particular order criminalizing the failure to wear a mask was short-lived, its initial encroachment raises important policy concerns.”

To read this paper in full, please visit: