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Expands police powers to detain individuals suspected of exposure to communicable diseases

Location: TX
Title: Expands police powers to detain individuals suspected of exposure to communicable diseases
Identifier: CSSB 538
Stance: OPPOSE
Action Required: None at this time
Status: Passed the senate, withdrawn in the house, died


UPDATE: 7/29/2015 - CSSB 538 was referred to the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee.  The bill was scheduled for a hearing on 5/12/2015, but was withdrawn and failed to move forward. 

UPDATE: 4/1/2015 - CSSB 538 passed the full Senate on 3/31/15 by a vote of 25 Yes and 5 No.  The bill is now in the house. - recorded vote in the Senate

One Minute Call Needed to Tell Your State Senator to VOTE NO on CSSB 538:

Emergency Powers For Infectious and Communicable Diseases Going Too Far

Dear Texas NVIC Advocacy Team Members,

When you get this, please take just one minute and call your state senator and ask him/her to VOTE NO on Committee Substitute SB 538 which is on the intent calendar for a vote in the Texas Senate.(  

Filed to allow the state to better address situations like what happened with Ebola last fall, unfortunatelyCSSB 538 goes too far.  CSSB expands powers for the state and police for dealing with an “infectious disease emergency” as well as cases of communicable disease.  Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair and bill author Texas State Senator Charles Schwertner (R) D-5 Georgetown, has accepted some changes with the committee substitute, but unfortunately the bill still goes too far and still needs some items addressed.

OPPOSE CSSB 538: Emergency Powers for Infectious and Communicable Diseases Going TOO FAR


State and local health officials already have broad power in state law to issue control orders with pharmaceutical products like vaccines and drugs which are capable of causing injury and death. The expansion of these powers underscores the inadequacy of the current exemptions available. There is an opportunity to fix this and it has not yet been taken. Section 81.009 of the Health and Safety Codeonly allows for an unconstitutionally restrictive religious exemption confining the application to those who follow a recognized church’s teachings in opposed to medical treatment. Sincerely held personal religious beliefs need to be recognized as well as medical and conscientious exemptions applying to control orders for drugs or vaccines with the responsible alternative option for the individual for home quarantine must be added to this section of state law as a balance to protect those who can’t or are strongly opposed to the safety, efficacy or necessity of those pharmaceutical products ordered by the state.


Both the U.S. Constitution (Fourth Amendment) and the Texas Constitution (Article 1 Sec. 9) protect our citizens’ security from searches and seizures without a warrant and CSSB 538 allows for the involuntary detention of an individual by police without a warrant if the officer on a “belief” that the person does not intend to comply with a control order. (CSSB Section 7 Health and Safety Code Chapter 81.0891). An officer cannot determine intent of an individual and a warrant should be required.


CSSB 538 Section 1 amending Chapter 418 of the Government Code authorizes the governor to declare a “state of infectious disease emergency” through executive order.  While the proposed law requires the governor to consult with state health authorities, the power lies exclusively with our governor. Our citizens deserve the protection of an emergency and expeditious legislative override in case a governor is out of control. We all witnessed former Governor Rick Perry issue an executive order on 7th grade girls to get an HPV vaccine in 2007. Fortunately the legislature was in session and this abuse and overreach was stopped before it started. Our legislature may not be in session during an order issued by the governor that should not have been issued.

Additionally, the determination test on what constitutes an infectious disease emergency is too broad and needs to have both test conditions met, not just one or the other as currently written.  The word between the two test conditions should be “and” instead of “or.”

(1) the disease has resulted or is likely to result in severe or life-threatening illness or death for those infected with the disease; or and

(2) the disease is not contained by current public health and medical interventions and is resulting in a high rate of morbidity or mortality.

It is critically important that you quickly contact your State State SenatorLieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Governor Greg Abbott to ask them to oppose CSSB 538 until these items are addressed.


1)    Lookup your State Senator and their contact information. 

Enter your address here: for your State Senator’s contact information.

Or if you are registered with the NVIC Advocacy Portal, register/login at Click on “Check What is Happening in Your State” on the home page or “My State” on the STATE TEAMS Tab.  Your personal state legislators are listed on the right side of the page. Click on them one at a time to display their contact information.

2)    Call and Email your State Senator NOW TO OPPOSE CSSB 538 unless the above items are addressed.

3) Contact Information for other State Offices: 

Speaker of the House Joe Straus 

Room 2W.13

P.O. Box 2910

Austin, TX 78768

(512) 463-1000

(512) 463-0675 Fax


     Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick   

Room 2E.13

1100 Congress Avenue

Austin, TX 78701

(512) 463-0001 


     Governor Greg Abbott

Office of the Governor

P.O. Box 12428

Austin, Texas 78711

(512) 463-2000


4)  Please forward this email to family and friends and ask them to share their concerns with their legislators as well. 

Register for email updates:

NVIC Advocacy Portal at


Thank you!


Dawn Richardson and Rebecca Rex

Texas Directors of Advocacy

National Vaccine Information Center and

PROVE (Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education)   


The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) works diligently to prepare and disseminate our legislative advocacy action alerts and supporting materials.  We request that organizations and members of the public forward our alerts in their original form to assure consistent and accurate messaging and effective action. Please acknowledge NVIC as originators of this work when forwarding to members of the public and like-minded organizations. To receive alerts immediately, register  at, a website dedicated to this sole purpose and provided as a free public service by NVIC.

UPDATE: 5/6/2015 - CSSB 538 has been referred to the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee. - committee information 

UPDATE: 4/1/2015 - CSSB 538 passed the full Senate on 3/31/15 by a vote of 25 Yes and 5 No.  The bill is now in the house. - recorded vote in the Senate

UPDATE: 3/30/2015 - CSSB 538 placed on Senate Intent Calendar for a Vote - contact Senator and Leadership to VOTE NO - See alert

UPDATE: 3/24/2015 - SB 538 was substituted with a new version, then passed by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. - text of the new, substituted version. 

SB 538 had a public hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on 3/4/15. The bill is pending in that committee. 

Link to agenda

SB 538 was introduced on Feb.. 10, 2015.  This bill is sponsored by Senators Schwertner, Campbell, Kolkhorst, Nelson, Perry, Rodríguez,Taylor, Van,  Uresti and Zaffirini.  

This bill would expand and add sweeping and broad police powers allowing for the detention of people if the department or a health authority has reasonable cause to believe that an individual is infected with, has been exposed to, or is the carrier of a communicable disease,

The bill adds a new law titled, STATE OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE EMERGENCY. 

The bill places into law - A DECLARATION OF STATE OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE EMERGENCY. (a) The governor by executive order or proclamation may declare a state of infectious disease emergency if the governor, in consultation with the commissioner of state health services and the division, finds that an infectious disease poses an imminent risk

to the health and safety of the citizens of this state. 

This bill expands the police powers of the health dept or the health authority to allow: 

 The order may require the individual to remain in a health care facility or other location, including the individual's home.

(d-1)  A peace officer, including a sheriff or constable, may use reasonable force to:

(1)  secure an individual subject to an order issued under Subsection (b); and

(2)  except as directed by the department or the health authority, prevent the individual from leaving the facility or other location designated in the order.

Sec. 81.0891.  EMERGENCY DETENTION OF INDIVIDUAL SUBJECT TO CONTROL ORDER.  (a)  A peace officer, without a warrant, may take an individual into custody if the officer has reason to believe and does believe that:

(1)  the individual is subject to a written control order under Section 81.083;

(2)  the individual, or the individual's parent, legal guardian, or managing conservator if the individual is a minor, is not complying with or does not intend to comply with the control order; and

(3)  there is a substantial risk of serious harm to others unless the individual is immediately detained. - text of SB 538