“Small businesses need the flexibility to work with their employees and offer benefits to keep them competitive,” wrote Andy Ellard of Manda Machine Company to members of the Texas House State Affairs Committee earlier this year. “A one-size-fits-all government mandate is not the answer.”
Ellard echoes the sentiments of many small business owners across the state.
The cause for their concern? An onslaught of onerous local ordinances that are threatening the ability of Texas business owners to operate freely.
Their worries are justified. If Texas cities are successful in passing these measures—such as forcing employers to provide paid sick leave as a benefit—then small business owners will struggle to make ends meet while fulfilling these requirements.
Likewise, businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions will face compliance issues as they try to deal with a mishmash of regulations spread out across numerous municipalities.
It is important to keep in mind that the addressing of this problem is not an attack on workers. Paid sick leave is considered a benefit for a reason, and it is in no way an inherently bad thing.
Many employers maintain a competitive edge by providing benefit packages (which may include paid sick leave) and by working with their employees when situations such as illnesses arise.
Unfortunately, this edge is lost when all businesses are required to provide the same thing for their employees. Whenever government interferes with the natural ebb and flow of the marketplace, it disincentivizes both employers and their employees by hampering innovation and limiting creative ways that the two can benefit each other.
But there’s hope. The best line of defense against these overreaching city ordinances lies in court decisions and actions taken by state officials.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened in litigation initiated by a lawsuit of San Antonio business groups against the city of San Antonio, regarding a sick leave ordinance that was set to go into effect at the beginning of August.
This intervention was not the first time that the Attorney General’s office had become involved, either. In a letter addressed to the San Antonio mayor and city council last year, the office firmly stated that “Texas law preempts a municipal paid sick leave ordinance,” regardless of any action taken by the council.
Recently, a Bexar County district judge approved an agreement made earlier this month between San Antonio business groups and city attorneys to delay implementation of that paid sick leave ordinance until December. This will allow more time for the ordinance to be refined.
Last year, a court of appeals deemed a similar ordinance by the city of Austin to be unconstitutional.
According to Attorney General Ken Paxton, “San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and other cities cannot be allowed to pass their own laws simply because they dislike state law or disagree with the judgment of the state’s elected representatives.”
It is imperative to remember that the situation at hand is not about the state overpowering local control. Instead, it is about ensuring the rights of individuals and private organizations to conduct business as they see fit—and free from government interference.
Texas is an excellent state for conducting business. This still holds true, despite the recent trend of city governments drastically over-stepping their boundaries. The good news is that business owners like Andy Ellard of Manda Machine Company—and their employees—can look to state officials and courts to defend their freedom to prosper.