Texas house passes 2 bills aimed at preventing cities from passing their own legislation on Labor, Agriculture, Finance or Natural Resources


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HB 2127 is one of several bills that Republicans filed this session to prevent cities and counties from enacting new progressive policies. For example, the bill would block local ordinances designed to provide more benefits to workers such as mandatory paid sick leave — though the state’s courts have already halted such city rules — and eliminate mandated water breaks for construction workers in Austin and Dallas.

The bill’s opponents — which include Democrats, local leaders, advocates for low-income workers and environmental groups — see a major power grab in the making that would prevent local officials from responding to their communities’ needs.

Rep. Chris Turner, a Grand Prairie Democrat, blasted the bill as “unconstitutional” as House lawmakers debated it Tuesday.

In recent years, the Legislature has made it virtually impossible for cities and counties to touch their police budgets and reined in how much their overall spending can grow each year. Texas cities can no longer ban fracking within city limits or require landlords to accept low-income tenants with federal housing vouchers.

Republican lawmakers have pitched several other proposals targeting specific local regulations for state control this year, including bills that would sap local governments of the ability to enact mask mandates and upend how Austin plans to fund its ambitious but embattled public transit expansion. They have also championed bills to bar cities and counties from enacting tenant protections against eviction, regulating short-term rentals and hiring lobbyists to represent them at the Capitol. One bill would kneecap an ongoing legal battle by cities like Houston, Austin and Dallas to recoup money they say they’re owed by streaming giants like Disney, Hulu and Netflix.

Earlier this month, the Texas Senate unanimously approved a bill that would block local governments from banning products that increase greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation was inspired by a proposal in Dallas that sought to restrict purchases of gas-powered lawn equipment but that has not been approved.

Sen. Kelly Hancock, the North Richland Hills Republican carrying the bill, acknowledged in a March committee hearing that no other cities have tried to restrict gas lawn equipment. But he cited talk of the federal government regulating gas stoves due to health concerns as another reason he authored the proposal. The bill is preemptive, he said.

“We just need to nip this in the bud before it starts,” Hancock said.

The notion of broadly preempting local laws at the state level runs counter to how Texas has operated for much of its history, said Steven Pedigo, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ Urban Lab. The state has largely let cities and counties govern themselves on local matters since the Legislature meets only once every two years. Conservatives also traditionally believe that government is better when its role is smaller.

“We’re at a real inflection point,” Pedigo said. “Does the state of Texas really believe in conservative government or does it not? That’s the big question.”

Democrats hammered that point Tuesday. Burrows’ bill “is the very definition of big government,” Turner, the Grand Prairie Democrat, said on the House floor.

Supporters of Burrows’ and Creighton’s bills have countered by saying local regulations can harm the state’s economy. Business groups are backing the proposals because they would prevent the state’s more left-leaning cities from enacting rules the groups believe would be harmful to businesses.

“We just don’t know what cities might propose next,” Annie Spilman, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, testified at a recent Senate committee hearing on the proposal. “That uncertainty of a business owner trying to figure out if they can comply … is just a lot.”

But if local business regulations have hampered the state’s economy, its booming economic and job growth over the past decade don’t reflect it, opponents of these measures say. The overwhelming majority of local regulations that business groups and Republican lawmakers usually object to come from Texas’ four largest metropolitan areas — Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio-New Braunfels and Austin — which account for nearly 70% of the state’s economic output.

“This idea that we need uniformity of regulation is overblown,” said Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League. “It’s kind of a fiction that Texas is suffering economically because of the so-called patchwork quilt.”
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“Texas is unique and our communities are diverse,” he said. “A cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work for our vast and complex state.”

Labor leaders blasted Tuesday’s vote — with Rick Levy, head of the Texas AFL-CIO, calling the bill a “radical attack on our democracy and on the voices of local voters across our state” and a “strong message to workers ... that they don’t deserve even the most basic protections.”

“Local leaders, who are best suited to pass policies that reflect the needs and values of their communities, have provided this protection,” Levy said. “Today, the Legislature got one step closer to stripping that all away.”

Critics argue the legislation would have far-reaching consequences and prevent cities and counties from combating predatory lending, responding to excessive noise complaints, enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances, creating invasive-species programs and more.

Gutting city regulations entirely instead of considering them individually short-circuits the democratic process, opponents said.

“The idea that we should, instead of having those debates, cut them off at the root and upend our democratic process to win fights that we aren’t even having is an affront to democracy,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

Because the bill is so broad, no one really knows the full extent of what it would do. Months after Burrows unveiled the first draft of the legislation, opponents still fear they’ve only scratched the surface of its potential impacts. Democrats on Tuesday sought explicit carve outs for local laws including nondiscrimination ordinances and protections against workplace sexual harassment but those measures failed. They warn of a flood of lawsuits against local governments should the bill — or its counterpart, Senate Bill 814, carried by Conroe Republican Brandon Creighton — become law.

“We’re just going to have to go to the courts to figure this out,” said Luis Figueroa, chief of legislative affairs at the left-leaning nonprofit Every Texan. “There’s going to be lawsuits filed all over the place.”
It sounds to me like corporations are regulating the government, rather than government regulating corporations. As a pro environmentalist lawyer RJK jr. saw how that worked, was disgusted by it, and is a major reason why he is running for president.
These bills eventually passed and were signed into Law by Greg Abbott.......

However, a Texas Judge Ruled these laws are unconstitutional this week . State AG has already appealed and Other State Republicans have called for the Judges ruling to be ignored and act and enforce the new law when it was supposed to go into effect on Sept 1st while they appeal the lower court ruling to the Texas Supreme Court

"Not worth the paper it's printed on": Texas Republicans ignore ruling against Abbott's "Death Star"​

A Texas judge ruled on Wednesday that a law dubbed by critics as the "Death Star" and championed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is unconstitutional.

Signed into law by Abbott in June, the top-down legislation prohibited cities from passing local ordinances that contradict state legislation in eight broad areas like government, finance and labor. The GOP-backed effort was widely seen as a power grab meant to curtail the progress of Democrat-led cities in the Lone Star state.

Abbott explained that he signed the bill to "cut red tape & help businesses thrive," arguing that "Texas small businesses are the backbone of our economy" and "burdensome regulations are an obstacle to their success."

The decision against the state Wednesday afternoon came as a response to a lawsuit the city of Houston filed last month. "I am thrilled that Houston, our legal department, and sister cities were able to obtain this victory for Texas cities, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter. "HB 2127 was a power grab by the Legislature and an unwarranted and unconstitutional intrusion into local power granted to Houston and other home-rule cities.

The mayor went on to call for an end to the "self-defeating war" on cities, including home-rule municipalities like his, San Antonio and El Paso, that he says have "long been the drivers of the State's vibrant economy."

"The Governor's and Legislature's ongoing war on such home-rule cities hurt the states and its economy, discourages new transplants from other states, and thwarts the will of Texas voters who endowed these cities in the Texas Constitution with full rights to self-government and local innovation," Turner said.

The law's author, meanwhile, Republican Rep. Dustin Burrows, criticized the ruling on social media, asserting that it's "not worth the paper it's printed on."

"The Texas Supreme Court will ultimately rule this law to be completely valid," Burrows asserted on X. "The ruling today has no legal effect or precedent, and should deter no Texan from availing themselves of their rights when HB2127 becomes law on September 1, 2023"

The Texas Attorney General's office immediately appealed the decision, staying the effect of the court's declaration and allowing the bill to go into effect on Friday. The office's director of communications, Paige Wiley, told Insider in a statement that while Gamble declared the law unconstitutional, "she did not enjoin enforcement of the law by Texans who are harmed by local ordinances, which HB 2127 preempts."

But Houston City Attorney Arturo Michel told The Texas Observer that, unlike the federal Constitution, Texas' Constitution does not permit the state to preempt local laws in broad areas like the ones HB 2127 addresses.

"For 100 years, cities have had home rule powers, the power of self-governance, under the state constitution, that does not require the legislature's permission to pass laws," Michel told the outlet. "The state is trying to turn that on its head."

The legislation came under fire among Texan workers and their allies as a deadly heat wave shook the state earlier this summer because the law, once in effect, would overturn ordinances that mandated measures and labor protections like water breaks for outdoor workers and prevent localities from passing new ones.

The state saw protests from construction workers who said that an end to local water break mandates would precipitate more incidents of heat-related illness and death.

"This is a HUGE win for the working people of Texas, local govs, and communities across our state," labor federation Texas AFL-CIO tweeted of the decision. "While we expect an appeal, it remains clear this law is an unacceptable infringement on the rights of Texans and cities."