AUSTIN (Nexstar) — At a time when the Lone Star State is testing its authority limits with the federal government, some of the state’s largest cities are challenging Texas’ control over local entities, in the latest power struggle between Texas and its cities.
The City of Austin said it is considering joining a lawsuit against the state over what opponents call the ‘Death Star’ law, which will prohibit local governments from passing ordinances that are stricter than state laws in several areas, including labor and environment.
The new law will dismantle some local rules, like mandatory rest breaks for commercial construction workers and eviction moratoriums.
“The City of Austin supports the City of Houston in its legal challenge to HB 2127. Austin intends to provide legal briefing in the City of Houston case further along in the process,” an Austin city spokesperson told Nexstar.
San Antonio joined Houston’s lawsuit on Monday, arguing the law violates the Texas Constitution and will lead to frivolous legal action against cities, since leaders argue the bill’s language is “vague.”
“Lawmakers have overstepped and abused their authority,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg in a Monday news conference. “This bill has and will continue to create widespread confusion and uncertainty.”
Supporters of the law said it will provide consistency in regulations that will help local businesses operate more efficiently. Annie Spilman, the state director for NFIB — a small business advocacy organization — thinks cities like San Antonio are reacting politically.
“There was concern from the small business community in particular, that cities were starting to step outside of their regulatory jurisdiction and regulate things that had always been traditionally regulated on the state and or federal levels,” she said. “The cities will continue to have all the regulatory power that they have always constitutionally had.”
However, Debbie Klein — the assistant attorney for the City of San Antonio — said she thinks any issues with business regulation should have been addressed in separate legislation, rather than in a broad preemption bill.
“If there’s a specific law or specific ordinances that an individual business thinks should be uniform throughout the state, then the proper way to address that is with the passage of a state law — regulating that particular industry issue, not just a broad sweeping cities,” Klein said.
House Bill 2127 was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott mid-June and is set to take effect on Sept. 1, unless the courts intervene.