You can say this for Texas Republicans: They hate to miss an opportunity to support small government by overriding municipal decisions they don’t agree with!
In the 84th Regular Session, House Bill 40 by State Rep. Drew Darby (who was joined by other heavy hitters from the GOP and two long-serving Democrats, Senfronia Thompson and René Oliveira) cracked down on the ability of municipalities to regulate fracking following the successful passage of a municipal ordinance in Denton that did just that. House Bill 40, which preempted any future attempts at such local control of fracking, passed overwhelmingly.
Not all attempts to combat local control are so successful. Following the passage of bag bans in Austin and Dallas, Republican lawmakers attempted to stick it to the hippies populating local government by disallowing the prohibition of plastic bags. That measure failed to even make it out of committee.
Many Austinites, familiar with the call and response of GOP lawmakers angered by local control they don’t agree with, wondered about the impact of Prop 1’s resounding defeat on Saturday.
Lucky for us, at least three Republican legislators took to social media to answer our burning question.
Tony Dale was the first out of the gate. At 12:51 AM on Sunday, the Williamson County representative struck back at his neighbors to the south with this ominous tweet:
— Rep. Tony Dale (@TonyDaleTX) May 8, 2016
Matt Rinaldi, Tea Party darling, wasted no time reminding us that nothing says “tyranny” quite like the will of the people in this gem Sunday morning:
— Matt Rinaldi (@MattRinaldiTX) May 8, 2016
Not to be outdone, Dr. Charles Schwertner tweeted his support for the free market and the ridesharing economy on Sunday afternoon:
People should be free to use whatever transportation they want…govt shouldn't be in the business of restricting those options. #Prop1
— Charles Schwertner (@DrSchwertner) May 8, 2016
All joking aside – Republican lawmakers in Texas are committed to utilizing their position at the Texas legislature to push back against the actions of urban centers taken through municipal ordinances on everything from whether grocery stores can provide plastic bags to protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination at the hands of local businesses. The omnipresent threat of legislative preemption is no laughing matter, and something strategic elected officials at the local level must factor in to the timing of any initiative that might be deemed too liberal or progressive to be permissible.
By using this tool, Republicans in the legislature effectively cancel out the locally elected representation of largely Democratic areas, pushing their reach into parts of the state that don’t support their overtly conservative and bigoted statewide agenda.
As evidenced by the passage of House Bill 40 last session, cities can’t count on Democrats in the legislature to stand up for their ordinances, either. While some, like Gene Wu of Houston, have voiced their support for the outcome of Saturday’s election, most have stayed silent.
It is clear that Texans have another battle over local control brewing at the Texas legislature. Less obvious is the eventual outcome. Be aware, Texans – session is coming.