By Jim Henson and Joshua Blank, Texas Perspectives
Austin seems to have a time-honored role as a target for the ire of state legislators, but the capital city was hardly alone in a legislative session that saw the clearest and most persistent articulation yet of a sustained attack on the autonomy of local governments.
Several Texas cities have been involved in a large number of these skirmishes: sanctuary cities, plastic bag bans, transgender bathroom policies and ridesharing ordinances, to name a few. But the increasing efforts to use state government to pre-empt the power of local governments emerges from a confluence of state and national politics that is much bigger than Austin, even though the Legislature has a history of treating Austin as a liberal burr under an ever more conservative saddle.
In the middle of the legislative session, the most popular and well-known Republican leader in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott, clearly articulated the approach percolating in the conservative corners of the GOP for several years and also underlying multiple pieces of legislation: “As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations,” he told attendees at the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute in March according to The Texas Tribune, “I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to pre-empt local regulations, is a superior approach.”
Advocates of state pre-emption are not without a foundation for their arguments. Even the staunchest defenders of the cities admit that local governments are created by the Texas Constitution, and that actions taken by cities, and local government powers, can be modified, reversed or revoked by state law. The Texas Constitution’s provisions on local government…