Whatever Happened To The Astrodome Bill?

SB 884 turned into a rare example of a Texas legislative battle where local control advocates won out over state authority.


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Photo of the Astrodome
The Astrodome

State lawmakers seemed poised to kill the latest plan by Harris County leaders to redevelop the Astrodome. But the effort died itself at the end of the Texas legislative session.

Senate Bill 884 required that any Texas county with at least 3.3 million residents get voter approval to redevelop sports facilities older than 50 years, if the project costs $10 million or more. Harris County's proposal to repurpose the Astrodome is the only current project that checks all of those boxes.

"When the Senate held a hearing, all the people who registered to speak spoke against the bill, and yet the bill passed unanimously in the committee and then passed unanimously in the Senate," says Harvey Tucker, professor of political science at Texas A&M University.

SB 884 was the latest in a string of contests between state authority and local control. The state has usually won such contests in recent legislative sessions. But the bill didn't even come up for a first reading in the House of Representatives until the middle of May. It ultimately died in the House County Affairs Committee without a hearing.

"I think what you got this legislative session was clearly – at least on one level, at least on the Astrodome – a defeat of this effort to kind of micromanage county and city governments by the Legislature every other year," says Bob Stein, a political scientist at Rice University.

Judge Ed Emmett and the Harris County commissioners are now expected to move ahead with the plan to renovate the Astrodome as an event space with underground parking.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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