Who’s The Boss?
Texas lawmakers go too far in trying to limit local excesses
Republicans like to say they are the party of small central government.
Unless, of course, they control that central government.
Such is the case in Texas, where proposed legislation in the state House of Representatives aims to strip cities of local control over a wide variety of issues without the Legislature’s approval.
It seems the bill’s backers — including Gov. Greg Abbott — aren’t happy about “progressives” in certain large Texas cities passing ordinances that go against how the GOP majority in the Legislature thinks.
So House Bill 2127 would, if approved, restrict cities and counties from regulating most commercial activities without approval from the powers that be at the state Capitol.
Local governments would be banned from regulating anything to do with agriculture, the environment, labor practices, occupations, insurance or finance.
Supporters say city and county regulations create a confusing patchwork of rules and regulations and make it harder for businesses to operate statewide.
Among the things that lawmakers are convinced pose grave danger to the state are Austin’s proposed ban on single use plastic bags. Or an idea floated in Dallas to get rid of gasoline-powered lawn mowers. Or Denton’s move to prohibit fracking inside the city limits.
All of which ultimately failed, by the way. Supporters say the state’s elected representatives and senators should be solely in charge of such regulation.
Foes say Texas is not a one-size-fits-all state and the legislation would keep city and county officials — who are also elected by the voters — from carrying out the will of their constituents. They also point out the bill is so broad that it could even keep cities from enforcing something as simple as ordinances penalizing property owners who refuse to cut overgrown lawns.
House Republicans say they want order and uniformity. Opponents say they are trying to quash any dissent from their party line.
We can see both sides. Sometimes local authorities — both left and right — can go off the rails with extreme proposals. They seldom make it into law, but there is always a chance. But the Legislature doesn’t need to micromanage cities and counties, either.
Perhaps a version of this bill is needed. But definitely not one so sweeping.