Comment of the Day: An Important Rule About Local Rule

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN IMPORTANT RULE ABOUT LOCAL RULE “What seems weird to me is the idea that one government body is passing a law that says that other government bodies are not allowed to pass laws that do certain specific things. Maybe this is common and I’ve just never noticed it before, but it seems like a brazen attempt by one ideological group to attempt to use their success getting elected into a majority in one jurisdiction to legislate (or block legislation) in another jurisdiction where they were not able to get elected into a majority.” [wcthoms, commenting on The State of Texas and the Right To Cut Down Trees Without Notice] Illustration: Lulu

12 Comment

  • Republicans are upset that democrats are micromanaging and over taxing at the city level. So they are blocking their ability to do this. It’s called checks and balances. Read up in it.

  • yes, so weird. like that pesky federal government telling the south they couldn’t keep slaves and the mormons they could only have 1 wife.

  • States are sovereign. Local governments (cities, counties, school districts, hospital districts, flood control districts etc.) are creations of the state and their right to make ordinances is an explicit grant from the state. For example, this is why municipalities cannot make criminal laws (beyond some minor misdemeanors): the state did not grant that right. So, the state government is well within its rights to grant or take away lawmaking power from municipalities.

  • Country mice are upset that city mice run their cities differently than country mice run their hamlets. Country mice get a bigger voice in state government because they have more land, and land has voting power.

  • Adding to what Matthew Wylie said: The State of Texas charters all of its counties and municipalities and special entities; this relationship between the state and the locality is not in any way analogous to the relationship of the federal government and state governments. It allows them to exist. It could disallow them to exist as such or even at all. Furthermore, there is an entire body of administrative law covered by the Local Code, Special Government Local Code, and touched on in a variety of other sets of code. This tree thing is not some sort of new fundamental category of state infringement into local politics. Not even remotely close. It’s just a policy, like many other policies.
    Of course, that’s the legalistic perspective. As far as what ought to be policy in principle or the motives underlying power plays, well that’s another matter. I find that so-called “conservative” and “liberal” principles mean just about as much as the labels used to describe them and a self-described “conservative” or “liberal” calling their counterpart a hypocrite is the pot calling the kettle black.

  • @Memebag,

    Land most certainly doesn’t have voting power. Both state Senate and House districts are apportioned based on population, not land area. If anything, voters in our state’s cities are over-represented, since a higher proportion of those ineligible to vote (children and non-citizens) live in cities than in rural areas.

  • @Memebag the issue is that our suburban mice see themselves as country mice who are temporarily dislocated, and vote accordingly.

  • Yes, the state can legally take away powers that it granted to municipalities, but we all know what is going on here. The state grants municipalities broad powers to regulate land use. The state is not saying that municipalities have exceeded their authority or that it would be more efficient to replace the state regulation with a state wide standard. The state is simply acting as an overlord picking what municipal action is not in line with the views of conservatives who do not even live in the affected municipalities. While the legislature can do this legally, it is clearly not how things were intended to work when the Local Gov’t Code and state constitution were enacted. People in Midland, TX may have no reason to ban plastic bags, but it makes a lot of sense for coastal bend communities to ban plastic bags that easily get blown into the water and harm fish, turtles and dolphins in the Gulf. McKinney, TX may have lots of mature trees and think any restriction on cutting down trees is silly. But Galveston lost tens of thousands of mature trees during hurricane Ike and needs to protect the small number of mature trees remaining.

  • Conservatives have been preaching the merits and moral of “local control” – all the way down to the township and even neighborhood level – for years if not decades. It’s just that NOW the only level of government that they deem worthy to exert such control is the level of government that they just happen to have a stranglehold over (state legislatures and governors). If it was the other way around, I have no doubt they would be aiming their ire towards the big bad government in Austin. Legally, I take it on face value that they are on firm ground but the hypocrisy you can see miles away.

  • On other hand, the Lege supposedly passed (or is in the process of passing) legislation forbidding cities, towns, HOAs and so on from banning chickens. This is a good thing.

  • @ Progg: The issue has a lot less to do with “conservative” and “liberal” values than city/suburb/rural divisions as well as the changing geography of affluence. There was a period several decades ago where the big cities (esp. Houston, Austin, and San Antonio) were bent on annexing their suburbs and trying to monopolize their regions. This was allowed at the time and was viewed positively by comparison with cities in other states that had gotten hemmed-in and had to deal with urban decay and declining tax bases. And then there got to be a point where you had areas like Kingwood and Clear Lake that got annexed very much against their will…a lot of folks are still quite bitter about that. There was a big fight over it and annexation powers ultimately did get reigned in. Fast forward to today, and we have stuff like “Management Districts” and other small neighborhood-focused special entities which primarily exist in inner cities. Houston itself routinely greases the squeaky wheel that is the Greater Heights area by giving them greater local control. Deed restrictions are cherished by people in the inner city; they are also valued by people in the suburbs. Sometimes it seems that the Heightsians on Swamplot are almost jealous of Woodlanders (or ought to be) for the strict controls they’ve got up north; and the only thing that divides them is a sense of social/community identity rather than preferences regarding particular administrative laws.
    And then, as Old School points out, there are places like Galveston. Well…Galveston certainly has an interest in preserving the oak trees that remain, but one can hardly fault a property owner for being concerned about such things as the direction that a tree might fall in a storm and the liability that they might incur as a result. If a municipality interferes with risk mitigation, you know on some level I see that as a kind of public taking without compensation, and that seems wrong. Utility companies are given a pass even when they go overboard, so why not ordinary people looking out for their own interests? And of course, if deed restrictions are in play then everything goes…and it doesn’t seem like the legislature is looking to void what are in essence just agreements between private parties. If the smallest element of local control is the individual and “conservatives” are thinking it through and taking it to the ideological extreme, well then okay that’s not inconsistent. I don’t really think that that’s what is happening necessarily with Greg Abbott and the TX lege, but it an individual might rationalize it like that.
    Like I’ve said before, making some generalized comment that somebody or a whole class of people are hypocrites because of this is rather absurd. It’s the pot calling the kettle black. It’s not flattering behavior.

  • Republicans are all for state/local rights until states and localities start doing things they don’t like.