Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has decided the best way to begin a special legislative session heavily focused on destroying local control is by declaring he will compile what can only be called an enemies list. During remarks to the Texas Public Policy Foundation this week, he vowed to call out state lawmakers who don’t back his 20-item agenda: “We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out — who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.”
The governor seems to be assuming tactics regularly employed by far-right lobbyist and “journalist” Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans, whose political scorecard measures legislators’ votes against Empower Texans’ own notions of how they should vote, even as Sullivan and his backers decide for themselves exactly what “conservative” means. In this case they have clearly drawn lines between battling Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and Abbott. Sullivan bluntly says legislators must “side with Abbott and reform-minded Texans or side with the obstructionist regime of Straus.”
So let’s consider the three lawmakers designated to represent our area: state Reps. Charles “Doc” Anderson and Kyle Kacal and Sen. Brian Birdwell. And let’s resolve that, if it’s good enough for Abbott and Sullivan to keep score, grade and call out names, surely it’s good enough for the local newspaper to likewise score and grade our legislators on how they protect the cherished concept of “local control.”
For instance, the governor states he wants to gut city ordinances that require motorists to keep their eyes on the road rather than focused on hand-held devices, despite the fact dozens of Texas cities, to their credit, have passed strict cellphone bans. Only reluctantly did the governor last month sign an anemic bill banning “reading, writing or sending messages” by texting device. Given his latest threat, so much for those Texas cities trying to make their streets safer than the almighty state of Texas permits.
While we favored a House bill this past session to compel local taxing entities to demonstrate more accountability and justification for property-tax hikes (in the form of detailed budgetary information), we feel the state already places sufficient restrictions on how fast property taxes can rise. And all this ignores the fact that, if citizens don’t like what county commissioners, city council members or school trustees are doing, they can boot them out in elections. If they fail to do so, that’s their fault.
And, yes, we’ll keep an eye on Abbott’s proposal to hike teacher pay, particularly if this proves yet another unfunded mandate heaped on school districts and local taxpayers.
Abbott and allies complained loudly and often of how “one size does not fit all” when it came to federal legislation and executive orders and the individual states. Nor does one size fit all across Texas, especially when considering cities with such different challenges and popular inclinations as McAllen, Dallas, San Antonio, Abilene, Corpus Christi, Austin and Waco. We look forward to grading our legislators this session, even as we hope local leaders show far more spine in also calling out our state lawmakers when they forget their loyalties.