Texas House Authorizes Sweeping Local Regulation Limits In GOP Latest Swipe At Blue Cities

Republicans in the Texas Legislature are pushing two proposals that would take control of municipal laws, including worker rights and drought water limits.

House Bill 2127, supported by Gov. Greg Abbott and industry lobbying groups, would prohibit cities and counties from enacting and overturning laws that exceed state law in labor, agriculture, natural resources, and finance. The Texas House approved it Tuesday by a 92-55 vote but must vote again.

The bill’s supporters say it’s essential to tackle a growing patchwork of local restrictions that hurt business owners and the state’s economy. Urban areas dominate Texas’ economic growth and jobs.

Democrats, municipal leaders, low-income worker advocates, and environmental groups oppose the plan, seeing it as a power grab that will hinder local government from meeting community needs.

Grand Prairie Democrat Rep. Chris Turner called the bill “unconstitutional” during a House debate Tuesday.

The Texas AFL-CIO’s Rick Levy called Tuesday’s vote 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.”

Critics say the law will bar towns and counties from fighting predatory lending, addressing noise complaints, implementing nondiscrimination laws, creating invasive-species programs, and more. Gutting city regulations entirely instead of considering them individually short-circuits the democratic process, opponents said.

The bill’s effects are unclear due to its breadth. Opponents worry they’ve merely touched the surface of the legislation’s possible effects months after Burrows released the initial draft. Democrats failed to cut out municipal legislation including nondiscrimination ordinances and workplace se*ual harassment safeguards on Tuesday. If the bill or Senate Bill 814, carried by Conroe Republican Brandon Creighton, passes, local governments will be flooded with litigation.

“Inflection Point” For Small Government

Texas Republican leaders have been fighting large urban regions often governed by Democrats for a decade, and the Burrows and Creighton proposals constitute their broadest attack yet.

In recent years, the Legislature has made it nearly impossible for towns and counties to touch their police budgets and limited their spending growth. Texas cities can no longer prohibit fracking or force landlords to accept low-income renters with federal housing vouchers.

This year, Republican lawmakers have proposed much more legislation to take control of local laws, including mask mandates and Austin’s public transit expansion funding. They have also supported proposals to prevent towns and counties from regulating short-term rentals, protecting tenants from eviction, and paying Capitol lobbyists. One law would stop Houston, Austin, and Dallas from suing Disney, Hulu, and Netflix for money they think they’re entitled.

Texas House Authorizes Sweeping Local Regulation Limits In GOP Latest Swipe At Blue Cities

This month, the Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill to prevent local governments from banning greenhouse gas-emitting products. Dallas’ failed gas-powered lawn equipment ban influenced the legislation.

In a March committee hearing, Sen. Kelly Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican supporting the bill, said no other towns have tried to ban gas lawn equipment. He also wrote the suggestion because of health concerns about gas burners and federal regulation. He called the bill preemptive.

“We need to stop this before it starts,” Hancock added.

Steven Pedigo, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ Urban Lab, said preempting municipal laws at the state level goes against Texas’s tradition. Since the Legislature meets every two years, towns and counties regulate local concerns. Conservatives also favor smaller governments.

“We’re at an inflection point,” Pedigo added. Does Texas support conservative government? The big question.”

Democrats pounded that Tuesday. Grand Prairie Democrat Turner called Burrows’ bill “the very definition of big government” on the House floor. You can also check related news here about Texas GOP Legislators Introduce Parental Bill Of Rights To Transform Education.

Burrows’ and Creighton’s supporters argue that municipal regulations hurt the state’s economy. Business organizations support the plans because they would prevent the state’s left-leaning cities from passing business-unfriendly laws.

Opponents of these initiatives contend the state’s strong economy and job creation over the past decade disprove local business rules. Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio-New Braunfels, and Austin—which account for roughly 70% of Texas’ economic output—have the bulk of local rules that business organizations and Republican lawmakers oppose.

Wide-Ranging Impacts

Environmental groups fear that the Creighton and Burrows proposals would bar communities from passing regulations that interfere with the state’s natural resources and agriculture codes, which might affect water conservation and controlled burns.

It is “fairly radical” since “it takes 100 years of how we’ve done things for home-rule cities and reverses it,” said to Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter conservation director Cyrus Reed.

Labor groups have also opposed the bill, arguing that it would overturn local heat break rules like Austin’s and Dallas’, which require construction workers to take a 10-minute break every four hours. Workers and labor groups protested the bill by handing out water bottles outside the House chamber before its Tuesday hearing.

Labor unions and advocates have repeatedly said that these local rules are necessary to protect workers from the Texas heat, especially as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s standards have been shown to fall short and extreme heat becomes more common due to climate change.

During the House debate, many Democrats tried to change the bill to safeguard local workers, but they failed. Turner said, “Texas doesn’t typically wait on Washington to solve our problems. Burrows said the local government hasn’t traditionally addressed worker heat stress.

Labor groups worry that the proposal might undermine policies banning hairstyle discrimination, which is not presently protected by state or federal law. They also worry that local “fair chance” hiring practices, which provide formerly j@iled persons a greater opportunity at finding a job and lessen the likelihood of reoffending, could be slashed, leaving a protection gap since federal law only covers federal agencies and contractors.

Senate Bill 130 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, targeted local labor rules and passed the Senate. Nonprofits and church groups who support payday and auto-title lending ordinances in 49 Texas localities are concerned about Burrows’ and Creighton’s measures.

The latest version of Burrows’ and Creighton’s proposals exempt ordinances that were approved before 2023 and would be legal under current law to safeguard them. Some feel that surrender isn’t essential.

Texas Appleseed Fair Financial Services Project Director Ann Baddour said the proposals would prevent more local governments from regulating payday and auto-title loans. They would also prevent towns from changing their ordinances to address new predatory loan products.

Companies have long claimed that low-credit individuals and businesses needing cash seek these short-term, high-interest loans. Houston Rep. Jon Rosenthal said Tuesday on the House floor that these loans are “virtually unregulated” by the state.

“They prey on the poor,” he continued.

After the pandemic, rents and evictions have skyrocketed in the state, and low-income housing advocates fear the Creighton and Burrows bills would weed-whack fair-housing protections and other local rules and initiatives to help low-income tenants. Burrows said Tuesday those would remain untouched.

Ben Martin, research director for Texas Housers, a low-income housing advocacy group, told a Senate committee earlier this month that it’s unclear whether the bills would eliminate programs that help tenants facing eviction or punish landlords who repeatedly fail to maintain their properties. Check out the latest news about the YouTube Prankster Arrested In Texas.


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