SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio officials are disappointed in the passage of a barrage of bills through the Texas Senate that could curtail their power or ordinances.
Bills regarding annexation, restricting tax rates, preempting local tree removal and cellphone ordinances and the controversial bathroom bill all passed the upper chamber of the state Legislature on Wednesday. Each relates to issues raised by Gov. Greg Abbott when he announced the special session in June.
The bills all have the ability in one way or another to restrict what the city of San Antonio can do or completely abolish some city ordinances.
"If we want to best represent the people of Texas, then we need to listen to them," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.
"We have locally elected officials who work directly with our neighbors to come up with solutions that do things that protect trees and make sure that we have a good environment and we protect our military bases. It flies in the face of self-governance to have legislators undo all of that work," he said.
Responding to KSAT in a statement, Abbott's press secretary John Wittman said:
"Governor Abbott believes government's role is to empower and create greater opportunity for businesses and individuals to thrive, prosper, and succeed. Contrary to the Governor's belief, some cities and local governments in Texas are doing everything they can to overregulate, and in the process, stifle our economy and undermine private property rights. That's why the Governor has called for legislation in the upcoming special session to restrict and prohibit local regulations that interfere with job creation."
Nirenberg said the property tax bill, Senate Bill 1, creates a "cap" for the revenue the city can collect to perform services.
He also worries that SB 6, which would allow citizens to have a say in whether or not they get annexed, could affect nearby military bases, though the bill's author, state Sen. Donna Campbell, a New Braunfels Republican, said they are already protected from encroachment.
The bathroom bill, SB 3, prevents cities from creating bathroom-related ordinances while also restricting bathroom and locker room use in public buildings, including schools.
Meanwhile, SB 14 and SB 15 would preempt the city's restrictions on tree removal and its ban on handheld cellphone use while driving. Though the state has a ban on texting, city officials said San Antonio’s ordinance is more strict.
"For whatever reason, some legislators have come to Austin and decided cities are a problem, and their solution for Texas is to rein in what local governments are doing," city spokesman Jeff Coyle said.
"To have the state come in and say 'No, mayor. No, City Council. We don't like what you're doing,' is saying 'We don't like what the community wants you to do,'" he said.
Though to Campbell, R-District 25, her annexation bill is about something else.
"This is about local liberties, and it’s high time people had the right to vote," she said.
However, the House of Representatives will first have its right to vote on her bill and the others.
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