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Crackdown on state COVID-19 responses endorsed by ReopenAmerica Project
Resolution introduced urging Barr to review state and local orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
PORTLAND, Ore.–Lawmakers introduced a resolution Friday urging Attorney General William Barr to review orders issued by state and local officials in response to COVID-19 and to initiate a crackdown on states infringing on constitutional rights. The bill was introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who headlined a recent COVID-19 national digital meeting “Liberty on Lockdown.”
“The U.S. Constitution is just as relevant and worth protecting during a national crisis as it during times of peace. We cannot use the hysteria surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak to provide a pass to state and local leaders who are abusing their authority to shut down their economies, restrict the free movement of American citizens, and impose draconian penalties that far exceed the seriousness of the action,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who introduced the resolution, told Fox News.
“I call on Attorney General Barr to continue reviewing these restricting orders and I call on Americans to stand united in the fight for their inherent rights,” Biggs said.
The resolution says “governors and local officials across the Nation have abused their authorities by infringing on the constitutional rights of Americans, ordering private businesses to close, requiring citizens to stay in their homes, and imposing draconian punishments for violations.”
The proposal has support from a number of other lawmakers and is giving voice to a growing movement.
ReopenAmerica Project is a coalition calling for data-driven, balanced leadership to combat COVID-19 to save lives and livelihoods. The founder of ReopenAmerica Project Jonathan Lockwood released the following statement:
“Congressman Biggs is a leader on the issue of standing up for constitutional rights. We need to do everything we can to ensure that our rights are not eradicated in the process of combatting COVID-19 or reopening America.”
Lockwood participated in the Liberty on Lockdown webinar with other policy experts including Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation Research Fellow Joel Griffith, Honduras Prospera LLC General Counsel Nick Dranias, and Shane Krauser, a retired trial attorney where he worked as a prosecutor for 12 years and a criminal defense attorney for two years. He is a former nationally-syndicated radio talk show host, an adjunct professor of constitutional and criminal law, and an NRA firearms instructor.
The full text of the resolution:
Whereas, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, governors and local officials across the nation have abused their authority by infringing on the constitutional rights of all Americans, ordering private businesses to close, requiring citizens to stay in their homes, and imposing draconian punishments for violations;
Whereas, these officials picked winners and losers using subjective rationale to determine which businesses and activities are essential to the public and prohibiting the purchase of products they do not believe to be life sustaining;
Whereas, more than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment over the last seven weeks;
Whereas, demand for assistance from food banks, reports of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence have dramatically increased during the shutdown;
Whereas, Americans across the country are calling on leaders to provide relief through reopening the economy;
Whereas, many leaders are rebuffing the demands of the people and imposing heavy-handed punishments on individuals trying to provide for their families;
Whereas, on March 22, 2020, Dallas County, Texas ordered hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, and other businesses determined to be nonessential to indefinitely close;
Whereas, Shelley Luther, owner of Salon À la Mode in Dallas, Texas, followed the order and closed her business but, after unsuccessfully applying for Small Business Administration loans and unemployment insurance, decided it was essential to the wellbeing of her family and her employees to reopen on April 24, 2020;
Whereas, the salon employed security guards to manage incoming and outgoing customers, set service stations six feet apart, requested customers remain in their car until their appointments, required everyone to wear a facemask, required stylists to change gloves after each customer, and took the temperatures of customers;
Whereas, on April 24, 2020, only a few hours after opening, Shelley Luther received a citation and cease and desist letter ordering Salon À la Mode to shut down;
Whereas, on April 28, 2020, Dallas County Judge Eric Moyé issued a temporary restraining order after Salon À la Mode remained open;
Whereas, on May 5, 2020, Judge Eric Moyé ruled that Shelley Luther defied county and state orders by reopening Salon À la Mode and held her in criminal and civil contempt;
Whereas, Judge Moyé called Shelley Luther’s actions selfish and attempted to coerce her into shutting down Salon À la Mode from May 5 to May 8 by assessing a $500 fine for each day of operation in violation of the state order, rather than imposing jail time;
Whereas, Shelley Luther rebuked Judge Moyé’s offer, stating “I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I am selfish because feeding my kids is not selfish. I have hair stylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids. So sir, if you think the law is more important than kids being fed, then please go ahead with your decision. But I’m not going to shut the salon.”;
Whereas, Judge Moyé subsequently ordered Shelley Luther to both pay the $500 daily fines and imposed seven days of jail time;
Whereas, prior to Shelley Luther’s sentence, Dallas County released about 1,000 prison inmates back into the community to help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 inside its facilities;
Whereas, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called out the hypocrisy and outrageousness of Judge Moye’s ruling in a letter to the judge, stating “I find it outrageous and out of touch that during this national pandemic, a judge, in a county that actually released hardened criminals for fear of contracting COVID-19, would jail a mother for operating her hair salon in an attempt to put food on her family’s table.”;
Whereas, there are numerous reports of Americans’ civil liberties being violated since states began imposing stay-at-home orders;
Whereas, the Governor of Michigan prohibited large, open retailers from selling gardening supplies, which would allow Americans to safely grow their own food at home, saying “If you’re not buying food or medicine or other essential items, you should not be going to the store.”;
Whereas, on April 2, 2020, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrested a man for paddle boarding alone in Malibu, California, and he faces a fine of $1,000 or six months in jail;
Whereas, on April 8, 2020, Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi was cited by police for holding a drive-in worship service at which church members remained in their cars with their windows rolled up and listened to their pastor over the radio, while nearby drive-in restaurants were simultaneously allowed to serve food to customers;
Whereas, Rick Savage, owner of Sunday River Brewing Co. in Bethel, Maine, was stripped of his state health and liquor licenses for opening his restaurant on May 1, 2020, the date Maine’s initial restrictions were scheduled to end, despite implementing social distancing practices;
Whereas, on May 1, 2020, 32 people were arrested in Sacramento, California for exercising their First Amendment right to protest stay-at-home restrictions;
Whereas, even as some states begin easing restrictions, some governors are placing strict limitations on group size until a vaccine or effective treatment is widely available, including limiting churches from hosting gatherings for more than 50 people;
Whereas, the United States of America was founded on the ideal that all Americans “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”;
Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the House of Representatives—
- Finds that many of the orders issued by state and local officials infringe on the constitutional rights of Americans and impose economic restrictions based on subjective views of which businesses and activities are essential and which are not;
- Finds that states and localities should not make criminals out of individuals attempting to save their business and support their families and employees by operating an otherwise legal business and following recommended social distancing practices;
- Condemns the decisions of state and local leaders to become the referee of the economy by picking winners and losers;
- Calls on Attorney General William Barr to review all restricting orders issued by state and local leaders and to act against those that infringe on Americans’ constitutional or statutory protections;
- Calls upon states to restore the liberty and responsibility that every American inherently possesses.
About ReopenAmerica Project
ReopenAmerica Project is a nonpartisan coalition of lawmakers, business leaders, health care workers, influencers and citizens who believe in a sound, data-driven and balanced approach to getting America back up and running.
Data is only as good as its inputs. In a crisis, leadership depends on quality data that informs solutions that weigh all of the costs and opportunities involved in taken actions.
ReopenAmerica Project is a communications platform that shares commentary, data and news to forward an open conversation about public health and economic policies, rulemaking and executive decisions.
ReopenAmerica Project has been mentioned in The New York Times, the UK Independent, Ore.-based Willamette Week, and more.