The Senate has given its preliminary approval to a bill that would dramatically limit the self-government powers of Texas cities and counties. House Bill 2127 passed its second reading on a near party-line vote and is expected to pass its third and final reading later today.
House Bill 2127 would block Texas cities and counties from passing regulations in areas including labor, the environment, and finance. State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) said the bill was needed to avert, "a patchwork of different ordinances across this state that are an impossible compliance nightmare for businesses. It's anti-business. It's anti-growth. It's anti-job-creation. And it's anti-Texas."
The bill would undermine the Home Rule provision of the Texas Constitution, affecting more than 350 cities, including Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. State Senator Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) drew an admission of this from Creighton.
"A Home Rule city can do anything that isn't specifically prohibited by statute. You're aware that that's the interpretation of that constitutional (provision)," Eckhardt said.
"That's the difference in a Home Rule city and a General Law city, correct," Creighton said.
"So, your bill changes that interpretation of the Texas Constitution, doesn't it?" Eckhardt asked.
"Correct," Creighton said.
Eckhardt then asked why this didn't require an amendment to the Texas Constitution. Creighton denied such an amendment was necessary.
City and county officials from across the state have condemned HB 2127 as government overreach, while Hany Khalil, executive director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, characterized the measure as a "Death Star bill" and "a dangerous attack on our democracy."
If the Senate gives its final approval, as expected, the bill will go back to the House for it to weigh in on various amendments.