After Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation to rein in onerous local regulations into law in June, Houston officials are suing the state in an effort to block the legislation from going into effect.

The bill’s author, however, has said the lawsuits amount to little more than a liberal effort made in conjunction with California activists. 

House Bill 2127 by State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) attempts to provide statewide consistency in regulations by returning sovereign regulatory powers to the state, in light of the patchwork of local regulations currently in place across the state.

The legislation would also grant citizens adversely affected by the rules and regulations enforced by the municipality to bring legal action against them for any damages caused to their person or business.

Many local officials—especially in major cities like Houston and Dallas—have expressed concern that their powers will be taken by the state due to the measure. 

In a lawsuit filed Monday, the City of Houston argues that the new legislation violates the Texas Constitution and would erode cities’ authority to self-govern.

“The Texas Constitution expressly champions the local control and innovation that has been key to the tremendous economic dynamism in cities like Houston. HB 2127 reverses over 100 years of Texas constitutional law without amending the Constitution. Because Texas has long had the means to preempt local laws that conflict with State law, HB 2127 is unnecessary, dismantling the ability to govern at the level closest to the people and therefore punishing all Texas residents. Houston will fight so its residents retain their constitutional rights and have immediate local recourse to government,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

In 1912, voters amended the Texas Constitution to authorize cities of more than 5,000 residents to adopt their own charters, provided “no charter or any ordinance passed under said charter shall contain any provision inconsistent with the Constitution of the State, or of the general laws enacted by the Legislature of this State.”

Due to this amendment in the Texas Constitution, the City of Houston argues the court should rule that HB 2127 is “void and unenforceable:”

Because constitutional home rule provisions “[a]re mini-Tenth Amendments designed to cordon off local matters from state intervention,” article XI, section 5 was also enacted to ensure that local regulations in Texas could vary from city to city, as constitutional home rule cities tailored their ordinances and regulations to their inhabitants’ needs and desires, and that the Texas Legislature would never be “the exclusive regulator” of city life, as HB 2127 wrongly asserts.

Burrows blasted the lawsuit, saying it’s unsurprising the left-run city of Houston is working with Local Solutions Help Center, a California-based company that works to “counter the increasing misuse of preemption and strengthen local democracy.”

The measure is set to take effect September 1, unless a court rules to delay or otherwise block it from taking effect.

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.

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