BEXAR COUNTY (KTSA News) — Texas Governor Greg Abbott explained why he issued the vaccine mandate ban and why he wants the state legislature to pass a law to ban such mandates in an interview with KTSA’s Jack Riccardi Tuesday afternoon.

“President Biden caused what is now confusion about mandates on vaccines by saying that he was going to order businesses to impose vaccines,” the governor stated on KTSA. “And now, what, something five weeks later, he has still done nothing about it, but yet businesses feel an obligation that they are required to impose a mandate.”

Abbott said the president was going to have OSHA develop the mandatory vaccine policy and its enforcement.  OSHA has not done that yet.

The governor said he knows why nothing has been done about it in Washington over the past five or so week.

“I happen to know the constitution and the law, and I know that neither the president nor OSHA has the constitutional authority to impose such a vaccine mandate.  So, they are probably scrambling with some analysis to come up with knowing full well that as soon as they issue it, Texas and other people will be taking action to have that [mandate] from the federal government stricken down as unconstitutional,” Abbott, who was the state’s attorney general before becoming governor, stated.

When asked why he has added the vaccine mandate ban to the special session agenda of the legislature when he has just issued an executive order doing just that, the governor said a law passed by the legislature is stronger than an executive order from the governor.  It also allows state lawmakers to adjust the punishment of violating the ban, which the governor cannot do through executive actions.  State law states the maximum penalty for violating an executive order is a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 180 days in jail.

“If you look at the constitution issued by the federal government, the federal government does not have the authority to come up with laws concerning public health and safety.  It is the state legislatures that do that and it’s been through the history of our state that the state legislature that has always been the entity that comes up with the laws, rules, and regulations that concerns health and safety.  So it is appropriate for the legislature to ultimately make this decision.”

The governor told Riccardi that he has been traveling the state and has heard stories of people panicked about losing their jobs and income-earning opportunities over the stated federal initiative because they chose to make a personal medical decision.

“I concluded that they should not be forced into that decision and the way they would not be forced into it is by issuing this statewide ban on any vaccination mandate on any person in Texas.”

What is going on with Southwest Airlines?

The executive order comes at a time when there are rumors that widespread disruptions at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines are due to employees not reporting to work in protest of the company’s vaccine mandate.  The airline blamed the thousands of canceled flights on air traffic control issues in Florida causing a ripple effect across its business.

“The information that I see is kind of what the suspicion that most everybody has and that is a lot of pilots were not showing up to go to work over the last few days and that is what caused a lot of the chaos as well as some other employees, some federal employees, who are not showing up for work, including maybe some air traffic control employees and some others that would affect people who are flying,” Abbott explained to Riccardi.  “I don’t think this is going to be solved anytime soon, which will show that this is really more than just a one-time weather event or something like that.  I think people are going to be not showing up to work at places across the entire country.”

So how does the governor’s executive order help the situation?  Abbott was asked if there are two orders or initiatives, how would that help businesses who are trying to operate their businesses with conflicting mandates and orders from different levels of government?

“As it concerns Southwest Airlines [which is based in Texas but is a federal government contractor] and them having to choose between whether they obey the federal government or the State of Texas, first, let’s go back to what we talked about: there is no order from the federal government for them to have to adhere to,” the governor said.  “So, there actually is no choice about which rule they are going to follow.  There’s only one rule that’s been issued as of right now and that’s the rule I issued.”

That means, according to the governor, Southwest Airlines cannot issue a vaccine mandate.  Punishment would be the same one that has existed throughout the pandemic for violating an executive order, though that could be much stiffer if the legislature passes its own law on the matter.

Abbott responds to his conservative critics about the border

Several of Abbott’s gubernatorial primary challengers, namely former state Republican Party chairman Lt. Col. Allen West and former state senator Don Huffines, have complained recently on KTSA’s Jack Riccardi Show that the governor is not doing enough to protect the border — including Huffines saying in his most recent appearance on the show that he would order the state National Guard and/or Department of Public Safety troopers to “shoot at invaders” — stating that migrants entering Texas from Mexico and becoming illegal aliens is an invasion.

The incumbent in the race told Riccardi Tuesday the state has always been strong in its enforcement of the border, dating back multiple presidencies.

“Every year that I have been governor, we have had a budget passed where the State of Texas was spending almost $1 billion every session for Texas to have DPS and National Guard available on the border,” Abbott explained.  “And then, finally with the Trump administration, it looked like the border issues were going to be solved because the Trump administration put in place what needed to be done: build the wall, the Remain in Mexico policy, the Title 42 policy, and the ending of ‘catch and release’ that had led to all-time record lows in the number of people coming across the border.  And so it wasn’t until we saw the consequences of Biden’s open-border policies that led us to do even more than what we were doing before on securing the border.”