Gov. Greg Abbott says the state – not cities or counties – should have the final say on issues like fracking regulations, bag bans, ride-hailing and any other regulatory issue. At two recent events, Abbott said he’d support a policy placing a broad-based ban on regulations at the local level unless certain standards are met.
At a Fort Worth luncheon for the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, Abbott said the country isn’t named the “United States of Municipalities,” and pointed to the 10th Amendment, which delegates power to states and the people if it’s not given to the federal government. But Abbott says that doesn’t include giving power to local jurisdictions.
“The goal here is to make it far easier for businesses to conduct operations in the state of Texas that deal with cross-city and cross-county lines,” Abbott said at the event.
Abbott first proposed the idea at a Q&A on economic freedom, sponsored by the same institute, in Corpus Christi
“As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations,” he said, “I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to preempt local regulations, is a superior approach.”
But it’s unclear how such legislation would come together, says Patrick Svitek with the Texas Tribune. The bill filing deadline has already passed for this legislative session, and there aren’t any laws on the books that fit Abbott’s description.
“I’ve been in the room for both these events now where the governor has discussed this,” Svitek says. “While his words certainly carry weight to lawmakers, I don’t know if he’s necessarily issuing a legislative call to action. I highly doubt we’ll see any law like this – any legislation like this – come out of the session.”
It could be more of a philosophical exercise for Abbott, Svitek says.
“He obviously fashions himself as a constitutional scholar and he believes, at the end of the day, that a lot of these local control issues – the Constitution is the dominant document in the debate,” Svitek says.
Abbott is also quite aware of what some critics are calling the hypocrisy of his statements. As former state attorney general, he sued the federal government and the Obama administration 31 times. The criticism is that he was on the side of local control when filing the lawsuits. He brought up that point at the Fort Worth event.
“That’s not true. I sued the Obama administration 31 times because I thought they were violating the United States Constitution,” he said. “It wasn’t because of local control.”
Abbott said he was concerned about the Constitution and what the federal government was dictating to states, Svitek says.
Abbott’s view is backed by the conservative think tank the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), which issued a statement.
“The greatest threats to liberty and property rights are happening at the local level,” said the TPPF Center for Local Governance Director James Quintero. “Governor Abbott is absolutely correct in calling for broad-based reforms to the kinds of economic regulations that local governments can impose.”
But House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) has said he’s against the idea, reports Svitek, saying that Straus doesn’t believe a “blanket policy on exerting power from Austin over locals is a particularly attractive idea.”
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.