Full Show

State Versus Local Authority: Wednesday’s show (February 25, 2015)

Here in Texas, we’re familiar with disputes between our state and the federal government over a variety of issues, from voting laws to environmental regulation to same sex marriage and beyond. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that federal law “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” In other words, this […]

Here in Texas, we’re familiar with disputes between our state and the federal government over a variety of issues, from voting laws to environmental regulation to same sex marriage and beyond. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that federal law “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” In other words, this Supremacy Clause gives federal law precedence over state law. So, if Texas restricts something that the federal government allows, typically the federal law – and federal authority – is upheld.

But in disputes between a state like Texas and local municipalities, that distinction is perhaps less clear. What should a city like Houston have authority over, and what should be the purview of the state of Texas? And what happens when one seeks to encroach on the other?

On this edition of Houston Matters, we look at the occasional clash of cities and the state, from two perspectives.

First, state lawmaker Matt Shaheen expresses concern that Houston’s recently-passed equal rights ordinance, and the city’s ensuing response to those wishing to challenge it, represents an overreach of city government. He explains his proposed bill to address it. Then, we hear from Rock Owens from the Environment and Infrastructure Division of the Harris County Attorney’s office, and Bennett Sandlin, the executive director of the Texas Municipal League, about their respective concerns over potential moves by state lawmakers to encroach on local community authority.

We also talk with News 88.7’s energy and environment reporter Dave Fehling, and Aman Batheja, a political reporter with the Texas Tribune, about the political implications of such disputes, particularly for a GOP-dominant Texas where state Republican lawmakers who have long promoted “local control” now find themselves at odds with some local municipalities and may seek to redefine what they constitute as “local.”

Also this hour: The Episcopal Health Foundation compiled a county-level Children’s Health Snapshot to attempt to tell the story of some of our youngest residents in the 57 counties of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, including Harris County. Where possible, they re­ported each county’s child health indicators in comparison to rates for the state of Texas as a whole. Rankings are compiled based on a child’s economic situation, education, health, and family and com­munity support. We talk with Dr. Gail Bray, VP for Research at the Episcopal Health Foundation, about the children’s health snapshot.

Plus: During the Iraq War, horrendous photos surfaced of detainees being abused at the Abu Ghraib prison. Some of the more infamous photos showed prisoners wearing hoods, or lying naked at the end of a leash. When photographer Chris Bartlett saw them, he wanted to find a way to use his skills to voice his opposition to how the war was being conducted. An attorney representing some of the former detainees — many of whom were never charged with anything — allowed Bartlett to take portraits of any willing former prisoner. Those images are part of an exhibit called Iraqi Detainees: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Ordeals, which is on display through March 7 at Houston’s Silver Street Studios. Houston Matters’ Michael Hagerty will have more.

Share