It increasingly appears that legislators in some states, including Texas, are attempting to expand their lawmaking authority by limiting federal and local governments from exercising their prescribed powers. It is a move likely unprecedented since the Civil Rights Era and, before that, the Civil War. Even then, the states didn’t simultaneously target city and county governments with the vigorous viciousness they did (and do) the federal government. Their beef tended to be with the fed imposing equal rights on resistant states. Now that local governments, those closest to the people, have started doing the same, state legislators are stepping in.
Texas legislators are considering bills that would remove cities’ abilities to regulate ride-hailing app companies (Uber, Lyft, et al.), limit the effects of short-term rental of unoccupied homes (Airbnb) on the city’s affordability and neighborhood safety and order, ban the use of plastic shopping bags (which I oppose) and other local matters. That’s not to mention the current most controversial issues of sanctuary cities and bathroom access. (Surprisingly, those two issues affect the least number of people.) States are further attacking the ways local governments raise money.
The guy pushing legislation overriding Texas cities’ ride-hailing regulations (like requiring background checks beyond what the company provides), some of which were voted into law by the city’s residents, lives in a city of 25,000 people with not a single ride-share driver among them. He claims that a uniform state law will encourage those companies to come to his town. Last I checked, any one of that town’s car-owning residents can register with Lyft or Uber today. Unless, that is, the town is barring them from operating. In that case, the state legislator is overturning the will of local citizens. At the same time, he opposes federal intervention of any sort (except its part in giving money to the states).
State elected officials have had successes and failures in their attempts to expand their governing authority at the expense of the federal and local governments. One important victory for them was winning the court battle with the feds to ensure they didn’t have to provide healthcare to more people under Medicaid expansion.
Not all their motives or policies are bad, but the surreptitious usurpation of larger and smaller governmental units’ authority may be cause for concern.
It will be interesting to watch these efforts to enlarge states’ authority progress.