Austin has a long history of abusing local control, but its recent push for mandatory paid sick leave may end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back. That much is evident by what’s happening at the Capitol.

What exactly is unfolding? Maybe something big. But first a brief bit of history.

In February 2018, the Austin City Council voted 9-2 in favor of a policy that would have forced Austin businesses [with 16 or more workers] to give their employees up to 64 hours of paid sick leave annually. The ordinance sparked a fierce public backlash from small business owners, who warned of dire consequences. And it eventually led to a lawsuit being filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation on behalf of those who believed the burden to be too great.

The lawsuit found success and in November, the state’s Third Court of Appeals ruled that Austin’s mandate was unconstitutional, and blocked the ordinance from taking effect. And while that should have been the end of it, it wasn’t.

That’s because Austin isn’t alone. Today, San Antonio has a very similar ordinance on the books and Dallas came close to passing its own version last year. And neither of those cities fall under the Third Court’s jurisdiction, meaning it would probably take a long and costly court battle to get them to back down.

So a statewide solution is needed. But the fix shouldn’t only target mandatory paid sick leave. The ideal reform is much broader than that.

A few years ago, Gov. Greg Abbott summed it up well when he said that Texas needs a “…broad-based ban on regulations on the local level unless and until certain standards are met.” A blanket ban like this would preempt most onerous local ordinances that interfere with the employee-employer relationship — a relationship that thrives the most when it’s left between private parties. In situations where new laws are needed, then those ought to be enacted at the state level, not done in piecemeal fashion locally.

One of the main reasons to harmonize labor regulations at the state level is to avoid the tricky jurisdictional issues that arise otherwise, much like what happened in the aftermath of Austin’s mandate.

Almost immediately after the Austin City Council pushed its heavy-handed mandate onto an unsuspecting public, the business community was left with some big, important questions about the new ordinance.

For instance, did it apply to employees who simply traveled through the city proper on their way to a job site? Did it apply to businesses located outside the city limits but who sent their employees into Austin to complete a job? How would it affect the airline industry and temp agencies? These are the kinds of complicated questions that many business owners couldn’t quite wrap their heads around — nor did the city have any answers for them.

Austin’s experience reminds us that a patchwork system of local labor regulations can invite unnecessary cost and confusion. Those are two things that no business owner wants to contend with. And if the Legislature passes broad-based reform, then the private sector won’t have to.

It just might happen, too.

State lawmakers are stepping up in a big way this session by proposing major changes to local regulatory authority, much in the same way that Gov. Abbott proposed years ago. Legislation has now been filed that attempts to tamp down on municipal micromanagement.

That’s the kind of bold, statewide reform that’s needed to stop the California-zation of Texas and refocus the public’s attention on local liberty instead of local control — a concept abused in recent years by municipalities to erode freedoms. That is, after all, why government exists in the first place.