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Texas lawmakers seek to limit municipal ordinances

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2023 | Municipal Law |

Ordinances allow cities to create and enforce rules that fit the best interests of their local residents. Although ordinances must fit within the bounds of to state regulations, they give municipalities much-needed autonomy so that it is not necessary to appeal to state lawmakers every time they need to create, adjust or remove a citywide regulation. The authority of municipalities to pass ordinances, though, might soon face limitations from Texas legislators and Governor Abbott.

A state rule to limit city rules?

Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) and Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) recently introduced a bill – HB-2127 – that would curtail the power of municipalities to pass ordinances. Under the new law, cities would only have the right to pass ordinances on limited topics confined to certain sections of the state legal code. These include:

  • Agriculture
  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Labor
  • Natural resources
  • Occupations

The bill is a response to municipal ordinances that Gov. Abbott and the sponsors claim are oppositional to businesses and the oil and gas industry.

Municipalities respond with criticism, concern

The state responding to municipal regulations that allegedly violate the Texas state code is not new. What is new is the vast reach proposed by HB-2127. Its top-down approach and broad span of forbidden categories could prevent municipalities from enacting even minor ordinances to address specific local issues – for instance, watering lawns during a drought. The bill’s sponsors have also not clarified whether, if passed, it could undue previous ordinances.

It might seem counterintuitive to respond to municipalities’ alleged overreach of regulations by imposing another regulation. This is the response of many city officials who express frustration over the strict limits set forth in the bill; the Texas Municipal League has condemned it. The concern of local officials has been met with excitement from some businesses at the prospect of fewer regulations. There is no hearing yet scheduled for the bill.



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