With the midpoint of the session almost upon us, lawmakers in both chambers of the Texas Legislature are finally moving legislation to the floor for a vote, including one proposal that would sharply curtail the power of local governments to interfere with private businesses.
State Sen. Brandon Creighton’s (R–Conroe) Senate Bill 15, which would preempt busybody local government mandates imposed on businesses, was heard in the State Affairs Committee this week. If passed, the bill would prevent individual cities and counties from adopting local ordinances related to employment leave, paid days off for holidays, and, most notably, sick days.
“Local ordinances like the ‘Paid Sick Leave’ policies in Austin and San Antonio are intrusive, expensive and burdensome to Texas’ job creators, and create an environment that is counter to our business-friendly environment,” said Creighton. “Senate Bill 15 gives our entrepreneurs, small business owners, and employers confidence that local government cannot impose costly, job-killing regulations on private employers and ensures that Texas will remain the best place to do business.”
Creighton’s legislation is a positive and necessary measure to slap down overbearing local governments across the state which have implemented the policies, imposing costly ordinances on citizens. Both Austin and San Antonio have recently passed paid sick leave ordinances only to watch them be successfully challenged in court.
Both cities are currently appealing the rulings.
During the bill’s committee hearing, representatives from the cities, their taxpayer-funded lobbyists, and labor unions complained that the passage of Creighton’s bill would be poor public policy and an unfair encroachment on local government.
“Those policies would also protect each one of us when we’re no longer exposed to sick workers who could not afford to miss work,” said Rene Lara with the AFL-CIO.
Opposition from those parties intensified after Creighton amended the legislation to also protect the rights of businesses to ask about criminal history and to override locally passed nondiscrimination and equal rights ordinances. Austin City Councilman Greg Casar, who has supported both measures and the passage of Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance, also testified against the legislation.
SB15 would not only take away paid sick and safe days, but also rest break ordinances, anti-discrimination employment protections, ban the box/fair chance hiring, and any other employment protection passed by local governments in the past, undoing the hard work of so many in TX
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) February 28, 2019
Those concerns weren’t shared by Republicans on the committee who argued free market competition would ensure that businesses were meeting the demands of workers and potential workers.
“Good businesses will stay in business because they have good business practices,” said State Sen. Jane Nelson (R–Flower Mound).
After the conclusion of citizen testimony, the committee voted on party lines 6-1 to pass Creighton’s amended legislation on to the full body for a vote—a move praised by the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Shelby Sterling.
“With the passage of this bill out of committee, Texans are one step closer to a freer, more competitive economy that will benefit everyone,” said Sterling. “Texas lawmakers are right to move swiftly on this important piece of legislation.”
Creighton’s legislation is a strong step in the right direction of reversing what Gov. Greg Abbott calls a “patchwork quilt” of local rules and regulations that infringe on the rights of businesses and threaten the economic prosperity of Texas.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility will rate SB 15 positively on the Fiscal Responsibility Index.