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(The Center Square) – Texas joined a 14-state coalition in support of a photographer who is challenging several New York state laws that she says require her to violate her religious beliefs and limit the speech she uses on her website.

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(The Center Square) – A bill banning governments from shutting down churches and houses of worship for any reason heads to the governor’s desk for signature after it passed its final vote on Friday.

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(The Center Square) – As the Texas House debates Senate Bill 10, a bill originally filed to limit the use of taxpayer money on lobbying activities, groups are asking the House to reject a loophole added by Republicans they argue makes the bill meaningless.

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(The Center Square) – Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued his third executive order on facial coverings, this time prohibiting government entities from mandating that Texans wear them. The reversal comes nearly one year after he issued his first executive order requiring all Texans to wear facial coverings, with some exceptions.

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DALLAS — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday that prohibits governmental entities in the state from requiring or mandating mask-wearing. According to the governor's order, this includes counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials. Public schools in Texas are allowed to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4, the order states. But after that date, face masks are no longer required for students, teachers, parents, or other staff members on campus. In a written statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina called Abbott's latest executive order "premature."Molina said many students who will attend summer school this year haven't been vaccinated yet and won't complete their second dose of Pfizer well into the summer.Places that are exempt from the governor's order include state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails.The governor's office said beginning May 21, local government officials who try to impose a mask mandate or anything that conflicts with Abbott's order can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000."The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," said Abbott.Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. However, over the weekend, the CDC recommended that all schools continue to use masks during the 2020-2021 academic school year. Currently, only children ages 12 and up have been cleared to receive Pfizer's COVID vaccine.  The CDC said that all K-12 schools should "implement and layer prevention strategies and should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing.""The governor should have waited until the CDC issues new mask guidelines for the 2021-22 school year before acting on masking requirements in public schools. We know some school districts already have ended their mask mandates, and we believe that also is ill-advised. The health and safety of our students, educators, and communities must remain our first priority as we attempt to emerge from this pandemic," Molina said in a written statement Tuesday.Current guidance from the CDC recommends that masks are worn at all times by all students, teachers, and staff to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It says masks "should be required in all classroom and non-classroom settings" including hallways, restrooms, gyms, school buses, etc. The 3-feet distance rule for masked students should also remain in place, the CDC said. "Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up," Abbott said in a news release. Texas Faculty Association President Pat Heintzelman also released a statement, asking Abbott to reconsider his order ending mask requirements in government facilities, including universities."We urge him to allow colleges and universities to continue requiring masks, at least until a larger number of Texans are vaccinated against the coronavirus," the statement partially reads.