HOUSTON — Houston officials on Monday announced a lawsuit against the state of Texas over House Bill 2127, better known as the “Death Star” bill.
The bill, which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in June and which is slated to take effect on Sept. 1, restricts cities and counties from enacting ordinances that exceed what’s permitted under state law.
It’s been decried by opponents as a state power grab that targets local governments, which in many cases are governed by Democrats. Houston, led by Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, is Texas’ most populous city.
For instance, some Austin City Council members passed labor protections such as giving construction workers time to rest because they believe local leaders have the best understanding of their community’s needs, not state lawmakers.
Republicans have characterized the bill as a pro-business measure.
Texas Republicans in the state legislature say regulating those issues is outside the scope of local authority and that there needs to be consistency for small businesses operating across the state.
“This is the most pro-business bill this session, but after a pandemic, and now weathering historic inflation, Texas job creators deserve the certainty that this bill delivers,” Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said on the Senate floor.
Houston’s lawsuit claims the Texas Constitution contains a “primacy clause” rather than a “supremacy clause.” The “primacy clause,” Houston argues, only “allows state law to preempt local laws enacted by constitutional home rule cities only when they directly and irreconcilably conflict with such local law, and then only to the extent of that conflict.”
“Since this bill was introduced, I, along with members of City Council, have been sounding the alarm on the dangers of this legislation and its efforts to strip local governments of its authority,” Turner said during a news briefing on Monday. “It is no secret. For years, the Legislature has been eating away at local control and government. But House Bill 2127 has gone way out of bounds.”
The bill's author, state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, responded to the lawsuit on Twitter, writing, “I am not surprised that leftist cities are working with activists from California to try and slow down the implementation of the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act. I have confidence this bill will become law, and help ensure Texas’ economy thrives for future generations.”
Turner responded to Burros with a tweet of his own, writing, “The Texas economy is thriving because of cities like Houston. Instead of focusing on name calling, would it not be better to govern from the center and respect the right of cities and local units of government to represent their constituents. HB 2127 violates Tx Constitution.”
Capital Tonight reporter Reena Diamante contributed to this report.