League City City Council passes ordinance that allows police to fine residents who violate stay-at-home order

(Courtesy city of League City)
(Courtesy city of League City)

(Courtesy city of League City)

In an effort to curb the rising number of cases of coronavirus cases in League City, the City Council on March 24 passed an ordinance that allows police to fine residents up to $2,000 for violating a stay-at-home order over at least the next three weeks.

Galveston County on March 23 was the first Houston-area county to issue a stay-at-home order that asks that all county residents stay in their place of residence, leaving only for what is deemed an essential activity, which could include procuring medicine, obtaining supplies and visiting a health care professional, according to the order.

League City has up to six of the so far 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the county, League City Police Chief Gary Ratliff said. To help stop the spread of the disease, the council passed an ordinance with "teeth" that reiterates many parts of the county's stay-at-home order with an addition that gives police the power to fine residents who violate the order.

Council Member Andy Mann proposed a scenario: If a dozen friends got together to play basketball, and someone called the police, how would police respond under this ordinance?

Ratliff said the responding officer would ask the group to disperse. If they did not, fines could be issued, but there will not be checkpoints or officers asking lone people on the street what they are doing or anything extreme, he said.


"Our approach is we’re hoping and praying 99% of these folks are gonna be under volunteer compliance," he said. "Only under a last-ditch effort would it ever result in somebody being arrested.”

Council Member Nick Long made an amendment to the proposed ordinance that exempts police from fining or enforcing the ordinance against churches that gather. However, such gatherings are already not allowed under the county's order.

"I do think we should not be banning people from meeting if they feel their faith compels them to do that," Long said, noting a city council should not be making such a call even if the county already has.

Mann said, in the interest of public health, the city cannot give exceptions to orders to religious groups that other groups are expected to obey. However, he said he was fine with Long's amendment because the county, which overrules the city, has already restricted religious gatherings of more than 10 people.

Council Member Hank Dugie said the ordinance does not do much in the big picture. The county already has a stay-at-home order, and League City restricting residents' right to assemble under fear of fines would set a precedent for future disasters he was not comfortable with, he said.

Council Member Todd Kinsey said if the council does not pass this ordinance, they could be back in three or six weeks talking about martial law.

"I hate to think what the worse situation is," he said.

Council Member Chad Tressler said it is time for the council to act. Toothless declarations such as mere recommendations to stay home will lead to more cases and overwhelming the medical system, he said.

As part of the originally proposed ordinance, the order would last 60 days. The council voted to amend the time limit to 21 days, which is when the council will meet for its next meeting and decide whether to extend the order. Long opposed the 21-day time limit, preferring instead to revisit the issue weekly, but the council did not feel seven days was long enough for the order to be in place.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.

<

MOST RECENT

For a third consecutive semester, Texas public school districts will not be penalized financially due to declining enrollment and attendance as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, due to an extension of the hold-harmless guarantee, state leaders announced March 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas leaders ensure financial stability for public school districts through spring semester with hold-harmless extension

The guarantee also ensures that Texas school systems can retain their teachers for the 2020-21 school year for whom they originally budgeted.

Mayor Turner signing Executive Order
Houston becomes first in Texas to set participation goals for LGBTQ-certified businesses in city contracts

“Until today, LGBTQ entrepreneurs couldn’t always bring their full selves to the table for fear of outing themselves and losing business, clients or their livelihoods,” said Tammi Wallace, Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce CEO. “This change means the city is saying, ‘We value you.’”

Eggcellence Cafe and Bakery opened in Webster in February. (Courtesy city of Webster)
Eggcellence Cafe & Bakery now open in Webster

Eggcellence Cafe & Bakery opened its eighth location in early February at 20971 Gulf Freeway, Webster.

This month, the Greater Houston area will mark the anniversaries of its first confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the first deaths attributed to the pandemic. (Courtesy Pexels)
Share your story: Have you lost anyone to COVID-19?

This month, the Greater Houston area will mark the anniversaries of its first confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the first deaths attributed to the pandemic.

People wait in line to receive a vaccine at an Austin Public Health vaccination site. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas offers COVID-19 vaccinations to school, child care workers

Educators, school staff and child care professionals are qualified to receive coronavirus vaccines effective immediately.

In response to Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2 announcement that Texas' statewide mask mandate and COVID-19-related business restrictions will be lifted as of March 10, the Texas Education Agency released updated public health guidance March 3. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Updated Texas Education Agency guidance allows individual school boards to determine mask policies

"Under this updated guidance, a public school system's current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy," the release reads.

H-E-B will continue to require employees to wear face masks until further notice. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B to require employees, ask customers to be masked despite upcoming expiration of governor's mandate

H-E-B officials announced their employees and vendors would still be required to be masked while on the job, and customers would be encouraged to wear masks while in stores.

A mandate will remain in effect for the time being requiring all riders to weak masks on vehicles run by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, officials announced March 3.  (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
Mask mandate to remain in effect for all METRO vehicles, properties

The announcement comes one day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded his mask order for the state.

The Sweet Paris in Baybrook Mall is the ninth location for the business. (Courtesy Sweet Paris Creperie & Cafe)
Sweet Paris Creperie & Cafe celebrates one year at Baybrook Mall with reopening

The restaurant serves sweet and savory crepes as well as sandwiches and salads.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (Courtesy Heather Kennedy, Nick Simonite, Annie Ray)
Despite bankruptcy, Alamo Drafthouse still coming to League City

Despite Alamo Drafthouse Cinema filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the incoming League City location is unaffected.