Montgomery County Judge Keough slams Governor Abbott for reopening too slowly, vagueness of order

Montgomery County Judge Keough slams Governor Abbott for reopening too slowly, vagueness of order

Image: Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough slammed Governor Greg Abbott in a video statement on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Keough spoke from his office in the Sadler Administration Building in downtown Conroe.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Conroe, April 29 – Proclaiming “We’ve got to get Montgomery County rolling again,” Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge,” slammed Governor Greg Abbott for reopening Texas too slowly, after the Chinese Coronavirus threat, and for the vagueness and unenforceability of his latest executive order, GA-18, issued April 27, 2020, which Abbott claims prohibits hair salons, tattoo parlors, bars, and gymnasiums from reopening. Keough made his comments in two videos which he produced at his office the Sadler Administration Building in Conroe.

Keough said, “The most difficult part of that for me is that we’re only opening up at 25% occupancy for two weeks…and then we get the chance to open up to 50% in the future, and then maybe 75%…But it’s not just that. It’s who is the Governor choosing as a winner or a loser in their opening. For example…dentists can reopen and they have their hands in your mouth for two or three hours…But the fact of the matter is that we’re closing hair salons who take 15 minutes to cut your hair when what the dentists are doing is much more intimate and invasive. I have a problem with that as your County Judge. I’m doing everything to move this County forward.”

The County Judge continued, “The businesses he said in his orders would be closed are not in his orders as closed. He just said he advised people to stay away from a certain type of businesses. It is unclear. It is vague. And like a number of things that have come out recently are very inconsistent…Because of the vagueness of this order, we’re not going to keep hair salons, or any of these things, we’re not going to keep them closed, because that’s not what the order says…As far as we’re concerned, you can be open.”

Keough warned the Governor may amend his order between now and Friday, May 1, 2020, when it comes into effect.

Keough made clear, “We’ve got to get Montgomery County rolling again. We’ve gone along with this as long as we could…Our hospitalization rate is stable. We’ve had minimal number of people passing; our heart goes out to them, but it was nowhere near what was projected.” Out of a population of approximately 660,000, Montgomery County has 404 active Chinese Coronavirus cases, 12 deaths, and 146 recoveries.

Governor Greg Abbott responded to Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough’s criticism of his order on the 5 p.m. edition of Fox 26 News on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Governor Abbott responded to Keough’s comments during an interview in the 5 p.m. edition of Fox 26 News: “I can understand why he [Keough] said it needs clarification. We will provide that clarification. So your viewers can know, it will make clear that what I said yesterday is what the facts are for Phase I for reopening Texas. That is for all restaurants, all retail, all movie theaters, all museums, they can open up at 25% capacity…It does say that for hair salons, gyms, bars, and tattoo parlors…they are not allowed to open. I can now see why the Judge see that language as ambiguous and we will clarify that ambiguity.”

In response to Abbott’s comments on Fox 26, Judge Keough issued a later video in which he noted that Governor Abbott’s 64-page booklet “Reopening Texas” didn’t mention closing hair salons, gyms, bars, and tattoo parlors, while Governor Abbott’s order effective May 1, 2020, also fails to mention those businesses.

Keough mentioned that, 30 minutes after Keough’s video statement, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) issued an order to all businesses under its jurisdiction that those businesses were to remain closed “according to the Governor’s order.” Keough continued, “The only problem is that the Governor in his order doesn’t say this.”

State Representative Steve Toth, Republican of Conroe, called TDLR who confirmed to the State Representative that they wouldn’t be enforcing the Governor’s order and would turn enforcement over to local law enforcement.

Keough retored, “The vagueness of this will not allow us to enforce this.”

The only mention of the subject businesses in Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-18, dated April 27, 2020, is “People shall avoid visiting bars, gyms, public swimming pools, interactive amusement venues such as bowling alleys and video arcades, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, or cosmetology salons.” Nevertheless, there is no prohibition whatsoever from those businesses reopening.

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