Dallas County Leaders Split On Threat From Texas Attorney General

Texas Capitol Building
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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - The Texas Attorney General says Dallas County is violating Governor Greg Abbott's executive order dealing with COVID-19 by ordering tougher restrictions.

On Tuesday, AG Ken Paxton sent letters to the Dallas, Bexar and Travis County judges, as well as the mayors of Austin and San Antonio.

Paxton says Dallas County "issued a local public health order that exceeds the county's lawful authority and that is likely to confuse residents."

The letter cites Dallas County's restriction on the number of people who can attend religious services. Paxton says the governor's order does not include a mandate on how religious services should be conducted.

Paxton also says the governor's order recommends, but does not mandate, that all essential and reopened businesses follow guidelines from the CDC. The letter says Jenkins can encourage people to wear masks, but he cannot require them.

Paxton also says the county's shelter-in-place order is "unenforceable." He says the governor's order only requires Texans to "minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who do not live in the same household."

Tuesday evening, Jenkins responded.

“We intentionally modeled the public health guidelines based on the Governor’s recommendations, never imagining he did not want his own guidelines followed. I ask the public to make decisions based on the recommendations of public health professionals: our lives depend on it," Jenkins wrote in a statement.

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Democrat, agreed with Paxton.

"I'm just following the law until they decide, at some whim, to change the law," he says. "The judge sees himself acting what he thinks is within the best interests. However, in collaboration, we need to see what the law says."

Price says restrictions ordered by Jenkins are hitting his district in southern and eastern Dallas County harder than other areas.

"We're the most severely impacted in terms of businesses that were phased in," he says. "It continues to impact us disproportionately."

Price says Jenkins should rescind his local order. Jenkins' office urged people to see recommendations from "local public health experts" by visiting DallasCountyCOVID.org.