In a controversial move by state legislatures, the Texas House of Representatives has passed the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act, aiming to have certain state regulations consistent around Texas.
According to Houston Public Media, “The bill would prevent local governments from regulating changes in state codes such as agriculture, finance, insurance, labor, natural resources, and occupations.” Instead, this would make it so the state of Texas first has to preempt rules and laws before a local government can enforce them in these categories. The bill has been nicknamed, the Death Star Bill.
The introduction of the bill states, “The legislature finds that…the State of Texas has historically been the exclusive regulator of many aspects of commerce and trade in this state,” says the bill. “In recent years, several local jurisdictions have sought to establish their own regulations of commerce that are different than the state ’s regulations…and the local regulations have led to a patchwork of regulations across this state that provide inconsistency.”
This will also include preempting local laws that deal with renters’ rights, the environment, workplace safety, and more.
The author of the bill says local governments are still able to address and regulate “natural or man-made disasters, unsafe waste storage, short-term rentals, towing and impounding, water restrictions, uncontrolled burns, backyard fire displays, unsafe outdoor festivals, and open containers.”
Lawmakers in the Texas capital believe that there are inconsistencies in laws and policies across Texas counties that hinder business growth and expansion across the state. The codes in one municipality might change in another, thus providing hurdles one did not have to face before. “We want those small business owners creating new jobs and providing for their families, not trying to navigate a byzantine array of local regulations that twist and turn every time they cross city limit signs,” said State Representative Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), who authored the bill.
Supporters of the law try to quell worries that this will undermine protections local governments have passed, staying that there are many federal and state protections already. However, opponents counter that claim by saying there are not enough employees of the federal and state government to handle every issue. Rather, local governments are more pertinent to deal with issues within their community than in other places across the state and should not have to wait for lawmakers who meet every two years to make “one-size-fits-all” regulations and laws.
Opponents of the bill say that it threatens local autonomy to govern and regulate many issues that happen where the local government needs to amend laws. Other worries are that it would undermine the achievements of local governments that have passed minimum wage laws, labor protections, food programs, and more.
Critics also say there could be an issue of municipalities not knowing which laws to enforce, and which ones they are violating.