You’ll often hear politicians talking about local control – cities know better than the state, the state knows better than the federal government (I hear that a lot in Austin) and so on.
Last week, the House took actions which show little respect for local control and the voters who elect local leaders.
First, the House passed HB 40, which would preempt many local regulations with respect to urban oil and gas drilling. This legislation was prompted by the decision of Denton voters last year to impose a ban on fracking in their city. Regardless of what you think about that ban, it’s my belief that the Legislature is going too far and using too broad a brush to address this issue. HB 40 impacts cities like Arlington, which has a gas drilling ordinance in place that appears to have worked well over the years.
Just over a week ago, I toured the Arlington neighborhood affected by a serious gas well incident with Fire Chief Crowson, and I saw first-hand why Arlington’s gas drilling rules are critical to help protect the City’s residents.
Safeguards like Arlington’s are critical to public safety. Equally important is a city’s ability to update their ordinances to address changes in technology and an increasing number of wells. HB 40 made it more difficult for cities to do just that, which why I voted against it.
Immediately after passing HB 40, the House took up the issue of open carry of firearms. Once again, the majority rejected amendments which would have allowed large cities to opt out of open carry if their local leadership decided that’s what’s best for their citizens. My amendment to ensure that law enforcement officials have the ability to verify that a person openly carrying a handgun has the appropriate license was also defeated.
All in all, it was a bad day for local control, public safety and first responders in the Texas House. The irony is that these laws are being passed by the same people, who for years, have been beating the drum in support of local control and limited intervention by state government. You can’t have it both ways.
On another topic, last week I joined with many in our community to oppose an effort to move early voting from the South Service Center during the upcoming May election. As I mentioned in a letter to the City Council, ensuring our constituents can exercise their right to vote without confusion or undue inconvenience must be a priority for all of us in public office. This move could have negatively impacted many in our community who have had a years-long existing relationship with the South Service Center when it comes to voting.
My concerns, and those of many in the community, were heard, and late last week, the City and the County announced that the South Service Center will be open. This is great news!