Texas Republicans are increasingly targeting laws passed by cities and counties with so-called preemption measures, bills that would restrict a local government’s power to pass laws regulating certain industries or setting policy, The Hill reads.
It is part of a national trend in which Republican legislators are moving to preempt local governments, on issues ranging from minimum wage laws to immigration enforcement and even the use of plastic bags at retail establishments.
Supporters say the preemption laws are meant to create a consistent set of laws around a state. Opponents say it is a way for conservative legislatures to overrule more liberal city governments, at the cost of local control.
“Part of it is motivated by our urban communities that are very blue and Democratic and have different ideas about the environment and workers rights. I think it’s just offensive to Republican leaders,” Gina Hinojosa, a Democratic state representative whose district includes the core of downtown Austin, said in an interview in her Capitol office.
In Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott has the power to set the agenda in this week’s special session, legislators will consider eight new measures to take power away from county and municipal governments.
Two proposals would set caps on taxes and spending. Two other would govern permitting and construction projects. One would prevent cities from requiring homeowners to seek approval before cutting down historic trees on their own property. Another would set a statewide standard for texting while driving, superseding local efforts to crack down on distracted driving.
The last, and perhaps most controversial, would limit a local government’s ability to dictate whether transgender students have the right to use bathroom and locker room facilities of their choice.
The bill, similar to one passed in North Carolina last year, has generated intense opposition from business groups across Texas. On Friday, IBM, one of the largest employers in the state, took out a full-page ad in major papers around Texas, opposing the bill. Business groups plan a rally at the Capitol Monday to reiterate their opposition to the bill, which they say will cost Texas billions in lost economic activity.
Abbott said the legislation is his way of ensuring local governments do not step on the rights of Texans.
“What we’ve seen in Texas is a growing rise of actions at the local level that infringe upon people’s liberty. And just like I fought back against the federal government that was infringing on people’s liberty, I’ll fight back against federal, state or any government that infringes upon people’s liberty,” Abbott said in an interview in San Antonio, where he kicked off his bid for a second term as governor.