San Antonio joins Houston’s lawsuit against Texas over new law curbing local authority

HB 2127 takes effect Sept. 1

San AntonioThis is a developing story. Check back for updates.

The City of San Antonio has joined a lawsuit against the State of Texas over a newly passed law that critics say would sharply curtail the ability of cities and counties to pass local regulations.

The city announced Monday that it had intervened on Houston’s lawsuit in a Travis County district court over the validity of House Bill 2127. Formally called the “Texas Regulatory Consistency Act,” It has also been called the “Super Preemption Bill,” and opponents have dubbed it the “Death Star Bill.”

The new law, which takes effect on Sept. 1, will prevent cities like San Antonio from making or enforcing local laws across broad areas of state law, including on issues like evictions or employment benefits. A city councilwoman says it has already forced the city to water down a proposed ordinance to mandate water breaks for workers.

Supporters say HB 2127 is about keeping regulations consistent across the state, while opponents - including most of the San Antonio City Council - say it’s another attack by the state legislature on local control.

I’m feeling pretty disappointed and disgusted with the legislature,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said after a Monday news conference. “It seems that their yearslong flirtation with authoritarianism has really turned into a full on affair with authoritarianism now as a result of HB 2127, and it’s going to cast a lot of doubt and confusion across the state about local voters’ voice and what control they do have to determine their quality of life at the local level.”

READ MORE: City Attorney: San Antonio won’t take ordinances off the books in face of sweeping preemption bill

Cities already aren’t allowed to enact rules that would go against state law, but City Attorney Andy Segovia has previously said HB 2127 takes it further. It would prevent cities from passing laws that are even on the same subjects covered within entire portions of state law, including the finance, insurance, labor, or property codes.

Segovia said home rule cities like San Antonio have “broad authority” under the Texas Constitution to create ordinances, but the new law would effectively strip them of part of that power.

City leaders have not given many examples of which ordinances might be affected, and Segovia said at Monday’s news conference that the city would not “self select” when asked for examples.

He and other city officials have repeatedly said the bill is so ambiguous, that it is difficult to say what it might cover.

“The unconstitutional, vague language of House Bill 2127 takes the power away of self-government from home rule cities,” he said. “It essentially delegates any home rule city’s power to the courts in that individuals can challenge city ordinances based on HB 2127, and we will be faced with litigation and continued ambiguity and vagueness.”

Segovia said the city is asking the judge to void the broad preemption elements, which he said would strip away about 90% of the bill.

Though most of the city council has spoken loudly against the new law, District 10 Councilman Marc Whyte says it’s good for businesses and clarifies the city’s role.

“Let’s do what we’re there to do,” the new councilman said. “Let’s fix the streets. Let’s stop the crime. Right? Let’s deal with this homeless problem and try to move these folks off the street.”

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.