Attorney General Greg Abbott has informally told two top lawmakers that Gov. Rick Perry exceeded his authority in ordering middle-school girls to be vaccinated against cervical cancer.
The message was delivered behind closed doors last week to two lawmakers who had asked for Abbott's advice. Those legislators -- Sen. Jane Nelson and Rep. Jim Keffer -- issued a statement Monday making the issue public.
Nelson, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and Keffer, chairman of House Ways and Means, were determined to get the message out.
"The attorney general met with both of us, and he answered questions we had regarding the executive order," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "It appears that (the executive order) is, in effect, an advisory order and does not carry the weight of law. The Health and Human Services Commissioner is not required to follow the order."
But what's the deal with this "informal" opinion? What'd Abbott do, write it on a cocktail napkin?
Abbott avoided having to make a formal, written ruling when Keffer, R-Eastland, and Nelson, R-Lewisville, quietly rescinded a Feb. 7 request for a formal written opinion. The following day they sent a brief letter to Abbott saying their "intention was to seek guidance from your office in the form of an informal response."
Of course, had he done that, he'd have opened a bigger can of worms:
Perry has not been challenged on other executive orders, such as his 2005 directive to the Texas Education Agency requiring school districts to use 65 percent of their budgets for classroom instruction. While that order was unpopular with school administrators, many Republican legislators were supportive.
"The difference here was that he stepped on the toes of people in power," said [Scott McCown, a former state district judge and assistant attorney general].
UPDATE: The House has passed HB1098, which would overturn Perry's order.Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 13, 2007 to That's our Lege