Texas Governor Greg Abbott made waves recently when he voiced support for a “broad-based law” that would preempt onerous local regulations unless specific standards had been met first proving the regulation had merit.
The Governor’s rationale for this sort of pre-emptive regulation is grounded in the notion that Texas is being “California-ized” with a patchwork quilt of rules, regulations, and restrictions that are making it difficult for businesses to operate and individuals to enjoy basic liberties. And based on a rash of recent regulations it’s hard to see how that might not be true.
The idea that local governments are regulating to the point of excess is well-documented. One need only look to Austin where an onerous regulatory apparatus has driven out companies like Uber and Lyft while persecuting companies like HomeAway and Airbnb. Or in Laredo where everyday items like plastic bags have been banned by city council—likely in violation of existing state laws. Or in San Antonio and West Lake Hills where restrictive tree-cutting ordinances deny private property owners the ability to use their property as they deem fit. Or in College Station where homeowners have seemingly been banned from renting out their driveways during game days. Or in Denton where officials tried to ban fracking, but were eventually overruled by the legislature.
Given the laundry list of bad, and even harmful, local economic regulations coming into play, it’s hard to see how the State—who is both the author and creator of these political subdivisions—does not have a responsibility to step in and protect Texans’ life, liberty, and property rights.
The advantage of the approach advocated by the Governor is that instead of playing “whack-a-mole” every 2 years, the legislature can take a proactive stance against the local regulatory state and install basic guidelines so that only the most critical regulations are enacted.