Houston Matters

What Should Cities Control and What Should the State?

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?

Today, 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 local environmental attorney Rock Owens, 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.”

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