Politics

‘Death Star’ bill in Texas House would strip power from local officials, critics say

The bill would prevent local governments from regulating changes in state codes such as agriculture, finance, insurance, labor, natural resources and occupations. 

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Local elected and community leaders are denouncing what they're calling the "Death Star" bill — legislation they say would strip the city and county of its power to enforce local laws protecting its residents.

House Bill 2127 is being debated Tuesday on the House Floor and it's getting backlash from local officials across the state and in the Houston-area. The bill was filed by Republican State Representative Dustin Burrows of Lubbock and leaders are concerned that the bill limits the authority that the City of Houston and Harris County would have to enforce some laws and would give more control to the state.

The bill would prevent local governments from regulating changes in state codes such as agriculture, finance, insurance, labor, natural resources and occupations.

"This bill is a hostile and sweeping power grab by partisan state officials designed to decimate our basic ability to govern ourselves at the local level, to disenfranchise Houstonians, and to block the passage of policies that improve the lives of working people and are popular with Houstonians," said Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.

Khalil said the bill is an example of years-long efforts of Texas Republican lawmakers trying to gain control of local governments. He said under Republican leadership, community concerns like flooding and environmental issues have been neglected and the bill is a bad idea.

"HB 2127 is an unacceptable infringement on our right to have a say in how the places we live and work are governed," he said. "And so I want to encourage each and every Houstonian to take a minute today to learn about this dangerous bill and to act to make your voice heard by calling your state representative and ask [them] to vote no on HB 2127."

State Rep. Dustin Burrows said his bill "provides the regulatory stability and certainty that enables business owners to expand their businesses to other cities within Texas with more consistency, creating more jobs and prosperity in the process."

He also added, "It actually gives local governments a hand by giving them a simple reason why they won't, in fact, be bringing to a vote the countless issues that activists have been harassing them to pass locally."

Burrows said the bill does not stop local governments from addressing natural or man-made disasters, unsafe waste storage, short-term rentals, towing and impounding, water restrictions, uncontrolled burns, backyard fire displays, unsafe outdoor festivals, and open containers.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said if passed, the bill creates even more problems for the city and the county.

"These state bills that have been considered would be a total power grab," he said. "They would preempt our ability to serve people in a manner that is tailored to the local challenges that we face."

Garcia said the state's track record on decision making has not always been valid compared to the local level.

"When Governor Abbott suggested during Hurricane Harvey, that we evacuate millions of people – it demonstrated that he had no understanding of the danger that a massive evacuation could cause for millions of people."

Governor Greg Abbott is in support of the bill.

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