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Critics: Media hysteria over new regulatory consistency law leads to verifiably false information

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(The Center Square) – The Texas legislature recently passed one of the most significant regulatory reform acts in state history, praised by small businesses for providing a “baseline of regulatory consistency across the state.” It streamlines a patchwork of local regulations that have become costly, burdensome and in many ways, prohibitive, the bill author and its supporters argue.

Five years ago, the Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas began working with legislators to pass the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act to preempt inconsistent local ordinances to help small businesses. This year, state Rep. Dustin Burrow, R-Lubbock, filed HB 2127, which passed with bipartisan support. Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law; it goes into effect Sept. 1.

The city of Houston, working with a George Soros-funded California based Local Solutions Support Center, sued in Travis County, arguing it’s unconstitutional.

“Houston, like all cities, needs to know with certainty what laws it may enforce, and its residents and businesses need to know with certainty what laws to obey,” the lawsuit states.

Some Democrats, far-left groups and news organizations labeled the bill “Death Star,” referring to the moon-sized space station in the fictional series “Star Wars,” capable of destroying entire planets.

As news outlets attacked the bill, they also published verifiably false information. The Houston Chronicle said the bill would “end water break mandates” and was a “death sentence for construction workers.” The San Antonio Express suggested construction workers would die; NBC News said it “strips construction workers in Austin and Dallas of the right to water breaks every four hours and time to rest in the shade while on the job.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a Public Information Act request with the city of Austin asking if its ordinance mandating water breaks had ever been enforced, and if so, how many fines did it issue. The answer: no fines had ever been issued for any violations.

Newsweek quoted The Texas Union suggesting a worker died because of the bill. The Texas Observer wrote, “the Legislature has overridden local ordinances that require giving workers water breaks. Since then, over two dozen people have died amid record breaking heat.”

The new state law has not yet gone into effect.

The New York Times said the bill was “part of a sweeping effort by the Republican-dominated State Legislature to exert control over its Democratic-led major cities, which have become increasingly assertive in pushing progressive policies at the local level.”

In response, Roy Maynard with TPPF said, “the media is driving a false narrative” and the new law “isn’t about water breaks, no matter what the media says. It’s about progressive power and preventing the California-zation of Texas’ local governments.”

The Center Square reviewed the bill language, which is publicly available online. It includes no prohibition on water breaks. It also doesn’t alter federal rules established by OSHA, which governs occupational and safety guidelines that all Texas employers are still required to follow.

Burrows explained why thought the bill was needed in a bill summary: “Cities and towns need relief from the pressure to duplicate state regulatory and enforcement efforts. Additionally, job creators need a baseline of regulatory consistency across the state that allows them to focus their resources on growing their businesses and increasing their economic impact to the betterment of their employees, their communities, and the state, rather than dealing with unnecessary regulatory compliance.”

The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act was passed with bipartisan support “to provide consistency and predictability by preempting local regulation of matters regulated by the state in the Agriculture Code, Business & Commerce Code, Finance Code, Insurance Code, Labor Code, Natural Resources Code, Occupations Code, or Property Code and empowering Texans to take legal action against a municipality, county, or official whose conflicting regulations adversely affected them with the possibility of recovering legal relief and associated legal costs,” according to the bill summary.

Some critics have argued it creates legal uncertainty because it conflicts with the Texas Constitution’s framework for home-rule cities. The Texas Constitution already stipulates that home-rule cities, like Houston, for example, may not adopt ordinances or city charter provisions that are inconsistent with laws enacted by the Legislature. The new law doesn’t change this.

Others claim it will lead to frivolous lawsuits. The bill doesn’t allow for compensatory damages.

Others claim it prohibits cities from enacting employment discrimination protections for LGBT residents, prohibits addressing payday lending, puppy mills, and responding to natural or man-made disasters. No such prohibitions exist in the bill language.

One of the reasons the legislature passed the bill, and Abbot signed it, is to prevent Texas from becoming California, bill proponents also argue.

“I am not surprised that leftist cities are working with activists from California to try and slow down the implementation of the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act,” Burrows said. “I have confidence this bill will become law, and help ensure Texas’ economy thrives for future generations.”

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