The war on cities intensifies in Texas as Gov. Greg Abbott suggests a “ban across the board” on local regulations. He told an event last month that its “necessary to propose laws to limit the ability of cities to California-ize the Great State of Texas.”
The push is in response to so-called sanctuary city policies, and attempts to pass civil rights protections to LGBTQ residents and imposing driver screening requirements for ride-sharing companies like Uber.
As attorney general, Governor Abbott made a name for himself by fighting the federal government. Now critics are calling him a hipocrite.
“The same reason that states need to be different, Texas wants to be different from California, applies to cities as well,” says Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League. “Austin wants to be different from Fort Stockton, and Fort Stockton wants to be different from Laredo and so forth, and that's a good thing not a bad thing.”
Sandlin describes the governor's suggestion as “Goldilocks-style of governing.”
“The federal government is big and bad, cities are small and bad, and somehow state government gets it just right. That can't possibly be the case,” he says.
Sandlin fears state lawmakers could strip 352 home-rule cities of their power.
“You had a very conservative town out in Fort Stockton that banned bags because they were getting in cattle feeders and choking the cattle. Most cities will never dream of banning plastic bags, so this so-called patchwork quilt of different city regulation is actually a good thing.”
Gov. Abbott was unvailable for comment on this story. But he has pointed out the Texas constitution specifies even home-rule cities cannot pass ordinances that contradict state law.
“Its almost like the mayor would now be your government in Austin, and if the trash is not getting picked up you would call your senator or state reprsenentative, but that's not the way we want to do it,” says Sandlin.
“We've got mayors and council members for a reason, they're directly elected by the citizens and they're the most responsive.”