Oct 26, 2022 - News

The Texas governor's growing executive powers

Photo illustration of Texas Governor Greg Abbott with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Brandon Bell /Getty Images

Gov. Greg Abbott has amassed an unprecedented level of power in the state's top role through executive measures and, at times, circumventing the Texas Legislature.

State of play: At least 34 lawsuits have been filed challenging Abbott's executive measures in the past two of his nearly eight years in power, per a new ProPublica and The Texas Tribune report.

  • Abbott has a wide lead over his Democratic opponent Beto O'Rourke in some of the latest voter polls.

Why it matters: Abbott has been critical of Democratic presidents, particularly former President Obama, who used executive orders to expand their power — but he's done the same through disaster declarations and political appointments of Republican allies and donors.

  • Some legal experts say Abbott's actions go beyond his authority under the state's constitution, which largely limits the power of the governor.

The other side: Abbott's office did not reply to interview requests from the news organizations, and several of his allies declined to comment.

  • "If people want to change the rules or laws, that's fine, but you change them by going through a process," said Carlos Cascos, a former secretary of state under Abbott, who said only the courts can decide whether Abbott's actions are unconstitutional.

Details: Abbott continues to renew his 2020 COVID-19 disaster declaration despite downplaying the pandemic. And, he has continued to renew a disaster declaration he first issued in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey, according to the ProPublica report.

  • Abbott has issued at least 42 executive orders in his nearly eight years as governor.
  • He has also issued a disaster declaration for the border, allowing him to direct resources — which he otherwise wouldn't have been able to use — toward border patrol.

Flashback: Abbott was elected as a Harris County district judge before then-Gov. George W. Bush appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court to fill a vacancy in 1996.

  • He was elected as the state's attorney general in 2002 and as governor in 2014, replacing Rick Perry who opted not to run again.

Yes, but: Abbott has built off of his predecessor's use of executive orders. During his 14-year reign, Perry signed 80 orders, including one requiring HPV vaccines for girls that was reversed after legislators complained.


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