Ask anyone in Texas… we know that it is a B-I-G state. By land area, it’s the largest in the lower 48 and by population the second largest in the nation. Along with huge numbers come huge amounts of diversity. We may all be Texans, but that’s about the only thing most of us have in common. People across this state live in very different places, and have very different challenges.
Which is why municipal and county governance is so critical to the success of the state. A humid, coastal metro like Houston doesn’t have the same water challenges as a community like Wichita Falls. Devising a school lunch plan for the 921 students in Lone Oak ISD is a different experience than planning and preparing to feed the 158,000 students of Dallas ISD.
But apparently, some state leaders want to change this practice. As Tom Benning of the Dallas Morning News reports, Texas Republicans seem to have some major hypocrisy at work. After practically forging their careers by telling Washington to get out of the way of Texas governance, many lawmakers in Austin now want to snatch all semblance of local control away from Texas city and county governments.
With top Republicans talking openly about limiting municipalities’ control and even crimping their budgets, mayors, city managers, county judges and others have started to raise the alarm.
A new slate of statewide leaders — including Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — spelled uncertainty from the get-go for Texas municipalities.
But Abbott, in a speech before his inauguration, hammered away at cities for “unchecked overregulation” and argued that they’re causing Texas to be “California-ized.” He pointed specifically to shopping bag ordinances — such as the one Dallas just implemented — and Denton’s fracking ban.
Patrick’s push to effectively reduce growth in the amount of property tax revenue cities can collect has local budget-writers concerned. Supporters say that effort will provide Texans with long overdue property tax relief.
Thankfully during this legislative session, the situation in Austin is starting to get noticed across the state. The Texas Standard with Asher Price reports on Local Control Texas… a new coalition that has organized to push back against Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick’s plans…
The group came together from different parts of Texas… some environmental groups in Central Texas, and Republicans from other parts of the state. They are worried, for one reason or another that the state should not be stepping on local communities that pass these ordinances.
They’re just at the start of their work, but they are getting in touch with local representatives, and trying to raise money to do this work. They are going to local communities to have them pass resolutions [expressing] displeasure with proposed legislation at the Capitol.
The list of bills to curtail local powers is becoming quite staggering. Among them are proposed legislation that would strip county clerks of their salaries for issuing same-sex marriage licenses, or just force all marriage licenses to come from the Capitol, removing the duty from county clerks altogether.
Push-back against Austin is affecting every corner of the state.
If this is the trajectory of Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick’s Big Government, residents have to wonder where their tyrannical power-grab can be stopped. Let’s hope that groups like Local Control Texas are effective in stemming the tide.
On this Texas Independence Day— 179 years after the Republic of Texas was created on March 2nd 1836, perhaps state leaders could do themselves a favor and be reminded why that nation and state came to be in the first place…
(photo credit: SMU archives)
(feature photo credit: Wikimedia commons)
UPDATE: I felt it important on this issue to include some comments from the Republican perspective. Jay Leeson, a journalist from West Texas, writes his views on the issue of Austin-style Big Government, via Texas GOP Vote. Here is an excerpt from that…
To put a conservative label on proposals that undercut local control presents a paradox that would keep Augustus McCrae talking all night and a satire Will Rogers or Molly Ivins couldn’t script (but would probably describe as a form of Edmund Davis strong central state Reconstruction Republicanism— without the noble guiding principle, devised with economic crayons).
FOR A GROWING NUMBER OF WEST TEXANS these caps proposals are two more recent samplings of incompatibilities between this new brand of Republicanism and rural values.
Undoubtedly in the next week, we’ll be told and scorecard cajoled that for the cause of liberty and defeating local tyrants these conservative, good government proposals should be supported.
But they ain’t good government, and they ain’t very conservative.
On this point, I can say that we agree.