“When local policymaking is stifled, community voices are silenced,” said a coalition of progressive groups.
Local leaders in Texas’ increasingly progressive major cities were joined by workers’ rights advocates and other pro-democracy groups on Thursday as they applauded a district court judge’s ruling that a Republican-authored law aimed at superseding local regulations is unconstitutional and should be temporarily halted.
House Bill 2127, which has been called the Death Star Law by progressive groups, had been set to go into effect on Friday and would prevent cities from enacting and passing local ordinances, including many that would protect workers’ rights.
The local governments of Houston, San Antonio, and other Texas cities sued the state after the law was passed in June, allowing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration to overturn existing local rules governing a range of matters including property, natural resources, labor rights, and agriculture, as well as allowing the state to stop cities from implementing new measures.
The law was passed as a long stretch of intense heat began in Texas—setting temperature records across the state, putting people at risk for severe contact burns, and breaking power consumption records—and sparked national outrage as it would prevent cities from imposing rules requiring businesses to give water breaks to construction workers and other people who work outdoors.
BREAKING: HB 2127 has been declared unconstitutional.— Texas AFL-CIO (@TexasAFLCIO) August 30, 2023
This is a HUGE win for the working people of Texas, local govs, and communities across our state.
While we expect an appeal, it remains clear this law is an unacceptable infringement on the rights of Texans and cities.
The Texas AFL-CIO, Local Progress Texas, Every Texan, ACLU of Texas, and Workers Defense Project said in a joint statement that the judge’s ruling on Wednesday will allow “critical, lifesaving local policies to remain in place… reflecting the importance of local leaders being able to respond to their communities’ urgent needs.”
“Today, we celebrate our powerful communities across the great state of Texas,” said the groups. “The overturning of H.B. 2127… represents the power of our localities, our local elected officials, and the communities they represent.”
“Texas is a home rule state, built on the values of local democracy and freedom,” they added. “The Death Star Law directly contradicted those values—prioritizing corporate interests by using preemption to undermine local democracy and stifle local progress in Texas. Everyday Texans work in collaboration with local leaders to pass policies they need to thrive. So when local policymaking is stifled, community voices are silenced.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called the ruling a “tremendous victory,” while U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) said the decision will, for the time being, allow cities to pass local ordinances without the input of “partisan politicians hundreds of miles away.”
Good news from TX: a Travis County judge halted Gov. Abbott's Death Star bill that would have stomped on home rule & overruled the will of millions of Texans.— Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett (@RepJasmine) August 30, 2023
Our cities can rule themselves better than partisan politicians hundreds of miles away. https://t.co/uhgjlqHIrU
Advocates noted that the ruling imposed only a temporary injunction blocking H.B. 2127 from going into effect and that Republican lawmakers have made clear that they will work to eventually impose the law, with an appeal from Abbott’s administration expected. States across the country have also passed a number of laws in recent years preempting or limiting local control of a variety of issues, and the federal government has not taken action to ensure that all workers in the U.S. have the kinds of protections the Texas government seeks to remove.
The fight for workers isn't over.— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) August 30, 2023
There are still no federal standards to protect workers against extreme heat.
Help us tell Congress to implement commonsense safety measures to save lives: https://t.co/Od5jqsHIy6
“We celebrate this win today while also acknowledging that this fight is far from over,” said the coalition in Texas. “The Death Star law is part of a trend of conservative state legislatures across the country using preemption as a tool to undermine local policies that protect vulnerable Americans and concentrate power in the hands of extreme lawmakers and their corporate interests. We hope that the Texas Supreme Court will uphold this decision to protect local democracy.”
“Today, we celebrate this win for Texas communities across the state,” the groups said. “Tomorrow, we continue to fight abusive state preemption that silences communities.”
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