Municipalities across Texas are able to take a collective breath as the state legislature’s “Death Star” bill has been placed on hold as it faces legal challenges. The dispute is not on appeal as it makes its way through the Texas judiciary and give municipalities a bit more time before the law can go into effect.
What is the Texas Death Star bill?
The Texas Death Star bill refers to House Bill 2127, legislation that was designed to take control over eight areas of policy that were historically the prominence of municipal governments and place them under the state legislature instead. These include many aspects of business and construction regulation but leave other elements such as zoning under the control of local governments.
Many advocates for municipal control have given H.B. 2127 the moniker of the Death Star bill due to the impact this bill is anticipated to have for local governments. Particularly for local worker conditions, opponents of the bill have warned that state regulators would not be best suited for tackling the challenges that municipalities are able to resolve through locally tailored solutions.
Advocates for H.B. 2127 argue that it is necessary to address the myriad of legal regulations that vary from town to town that businesses have to abide by, simplifying this legal quagmire into one uniform system. By adopting a statewide regulation for businesses to follow, the state legislature is hoping to reduce compliance costs for businesses and simplify business in Texas.
What is the next step for H.B. 2127?
H.B. 2127 was scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2023, however, it has been placed on hold as it was recently held to be unconstitutional by a State District Court in Houston. This does not mean that the law is going away. Instead, the state is appealing the decision to overturn the ruling, and it is likely it will be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court if the appellate court upholds the ruling.
What this means is that for now, local governments retain the authority to make decisions for themselves of matters of business and commerce that would otherwise have been preempted by the state. However, the future of the law is still uncertain as the ruling could be overturned and the law put back into effect, placing businesses in the inconvenient situation of preparing for this potential outcome while simultaneously abiding by the current local rules.