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Stop fight against local control

Profile image for Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial
Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott should stop his war against city governments. He is up for re-election next year and wants to curry favor with all the special interests that chafe under local regulations enacted by city councils.

Abbott's motivation is clear. He wants to finance his campaign with cash from those same special interests.

Here's a perfect example of why case-by-case regulations are necessary. Fewer than 10 Texas municipalities have banned single-use plastic bags, but they've done so for different reasons. Ranchers in the conservative West Texas town of Fort Stockton complained that the windswept bags interfered with feeding their cattle. In South Padre Island, the bags killed marine wildlife and turned off tourists who didn't want to go to a trash-littered beach.

Funny thing, but Abbott and other Republican statewide elected officials never mention the lobbying efforts of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which is supported by major plastics manufacturers.

Abbott and his ilk characterize their opposition to local bag bans as freedom from needless municipal regulation. We guess that sounds better than supporting the freedom of plastics manufacturers to preserve profits by littering the Texas landscape with those ubiquitous disposable bags.

To call Abbott duplicitous would be an understatement. Out of one side of his mouth, he rails against the federal government's encroachment on state's rights. Out of the other side, he advocates state government smothering local control at the city level. No surprise. He's a politician.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance and its allies will be dispensing campaign contributions to Abbott and other statewide elected officials up for re-election in 2018.

Their political play is pretty simple. Send a few campaign dollars to the Republicans who control the Legislature and get them to pass a state law prohibiting any city from banning single-use plastic bags. That is a lot easier than trying to influence elected city council members throughout Texas.

We wonder what will be the logical outcome of Abbott's newfound disdain for city governments?

Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, fears the state eventually could strip all 352 home-rule cities of their ability to pass regulatory ordinances. Right now, home-rule cities in Texas are free to enact regulations as long as they don't conflict with state law.

Such a shift in law would reduce home-rule cities such as Denton to the status of small towns that currently function as general-law cities, which can regulate only areas the state specifically gives them permission to oversee.

We believe local elected officials and their hired hands in city management are better positioned to take care of us than Abbott and his money-influenced cronies in Austin. Therefore, the Legislature should turn its back on any new law that infringes on local government to decide what's best for its citizens.