The Republicans who have authority in Texas are going toe to toe with liberal cities and counties that are fighting laws with so-called preemption measures. These include bills that would restrict a local government’s power to pass laws regulating certain industries or setting policy. There is a growing national trend in which Republican legislators are moving to preempt local governments on issues that range from minimum wage laws to immigration enforcement and even things like the use of plastic bags in retail stores and gender exclusive bathrooms.
Those who support this trend say that preemption laws are meant to create a consistent set of rules for the whole state. Those who oppose maintain that it is a way for conservative legislatures to overrule more liberal city governments and force a loss 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 downtown Austin, said in an interview from her Capitol office.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott has the authority to set the agenda in this week’s special session, and Texas legislators will consider eight new measures that would take away power from a county and municipal governments. Two proposals would put caps on taxes and spending, and two others would govern permits and construction projects. One proposal would prevent cities from requiring homeowners to seek approval before cutting down trees on their property. And another would set the statewide standard for texting and driving. The most controversial proposal 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. Governor 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 initiated his bid for a second term as governor.
In the nation, at least 140 measures preempting local government actions were introduced in legislatures this year, according to Grassroots Change, a California-based group that opposes preemption laws. “These have really become just out-and-out fights between the state legislature and communities,” said Mark Pertschuk, who leads Grassroots Change. “This is an issue of democracy.” Pertschuk continued, “Almost everything that keeps us from being crushed to death or dying from chronic disease too early in the history of the United States has been done at the local level,” he said. Preemption laws “will stop innovation in civil rights, in safety, and in community health.”
Governor Abbott has countered, “Tell me in the [U.S.] Constitution where it mentions cities. Tell me where it mentions counties. The way the country was created, the way it was designed, the architecture of the United States of America puts states at the centerpiece. States create counties and cities and give them the authority that they can have.”
So where do you fall on this “state/local” debate?
Credit: The Hill