Imagine Bill.

Bill has a home on the outskirts of Austin proper.

He would like to cut down a tree that’s grown over the 40 years he’s lived in his house because it’s damaging the foundation, creating cracks in the walls, causing leaks, and sinking the value of his property.

After one particularly bad experience, Bill decides to have the tree removed and figures he can get it done on a limited budget since he’s on a fixed income. Unfortunately for Bill, he comes to the fast realization that he doesn’t own his tree. Mayor Adler, the city council, and the central planners within the People’s Republic of Austin own that tree.

As Texas Scorecard previously reported, in order to remove that tree, Bill might be subject to applying for a permit or variance, which might be accompanied by a hearing, a fee, a “tree protection plan,” and possibly other red tape.

Ahead of the special session, Gov. Abbott called on lawmakers to preempt local regulations of property precisely like Austin’s tree ordinance. He specifically referred to “Legislation protecting the private property rights of land owners from political subdivision rules, regulations, or ordinances that interfere with, delay, or restrict private property owners’ ability to use or enjoy their property.”

Texas Republican Party platform plank 37 specifically mentions that “Property ownership and free enterprise, the foundation of our collective wealth, must not be abridged nor denied by government. We support legislation to protect these bedrock rights,” and later sets forth “Taking of property should result in immediate compensation of fair market value to the owner.” The Governor and Attorney General agree, conservatives and property owners across the state agree. Classical liberals and libertarians agree.

Yesterday, the Texas Senate passed to second and third reading SB 13 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), which restores Texan’s property rights across the state, specifically over their trees.

The Senate agrees.

Meanwhile, companion bill HB 70 by Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin) is collecting dust while pending in the House Urban Affairs Committee, chaired by democrat Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston). Surely what’s on the house calendar instead is an equal clarion call, sounding the demands of property owners and stirring the spirits of Thomas Jefferson and John Locke, right?

Someone get Bill a tissue.

Yes, there’s more to that analysis. It’s just too sad to subject another human being to it all. Read more on HB 7 by Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), which is on today’s calendar.

Here’s the bottom line for Bill – With these changes, he’ll still have to fill out an application with the city, plant some number of trees (or pay someone to do it on his behalf) to mitigate what he’s doing to Austin’s tree, on Austin’s property, and his fee is half off. Half!

If conservatives, Texans, and property owners from El Paso to Texarkana choose to remain silent while such a fundamental right continues being reversed and completely twisted by liberal local governments, then we truly have lost our way. In this regard, the product from the Texas house is sad and tragic.

The best hope for HB 70 currently resides in the speaker’s recognition of any member, per House Rules, to re-refer the bill to another committee from the floor. Any hopes of this happening would require you to believe that House leadership is conservative. Or in other words, to suspend reality.

Salvador Ayala

Sal is the Budget & Policy Analyst for Empower Texans. He has been a committed proponent of American founding principles since 2007, shortly after receiving his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Before joining Empower Texans, he served as legislative director for Rep. Matt Rinaldi in the Texas house and was a delegate to the 2012 RNC. In his leisure, Sal enjoys live music, digital photography, guitar, bicycling, trivia, and documentary films.


7/19/24 The Federal Land Grab Coming for Texas

-Texas and New Mexico Lawmakers Push Back Against Federal Land Grab -Patrick Forms Committee to Scrutinize Utility Companies’ Preparedness for Hurricane Beryl -New Research Pushes for Equal Treatment of All Children in CPS