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Denton joins Arlington, Plano, Waco in opposing Texas' 'Death Star' bill

The City of Denton joined other North Texas cities protesting what has been called the "Death Star Bill."
File photo
Denton Record-Chronicle
The City of Denton joined other North Texas cities protesting what has been called the "Death Star Bill."

This week, Denton city leaders joined those from Arlington, Plano, Waco and the International Municipal Lawyers Association to show support for Houston’s request for declaratory relief regarding HB 2127, also known as the “Death Star Bill,” and its potential impact to home-rule cities across the state.

“HB 2127 should be declared unconstitutional as an attempt to circumvent the home-rule authority guaranteed to municipalities by the Texas Constitution because it cannot be construed consistently with the precedents of the Texas Supreme Court,” the city attorneys of Arlington, Denton, Plano and Waco pointed out in the Aug. 21 amicus letter in support of motion for summary judgement in Houston’s lawsuit against the state.

In response to Houston’s lawsuit, the state filed a motion to dismiss in early August because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

The first hearing is scheduled for Aug. 30.

Denton Chief of Staff Ryan Adams said that during this past legislative session, city leaders “repeatedly expressed their concerns” with the legislation, particularly regarding:

  • Its language is vague and overly broad, making it unclear how it can be implemented.
  • It violates the Texas Constitution in that it undermines the home-rule authority granted by the Texas Constitution.

“The Denton community deserves to have clarity in what their laws are and, equally important, should not have their ability to govern themselves under the Texas Constitution for common-sense laws that can be understood and address identifiable problems,” Adams said in a Wednesday afternoon email to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

In the Aug. 21 amicus letter, city attorneys along with Amanda Kellar Karras, the executive director and general counsel of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, called local governments’ home-rule authority the “cornerstone of local democracy,” since they are closest to Texans and understand their needs.

Home-rule authority allows local governments, according to the city attorneys, “to create policies that address local concerns that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on many factors such as demographics, population density, environmental concerns and public safety issues.”

“Given the uniqueness of each locality, home-rule allows local governments to tailor policies to address the concerns of their constituencies,” the letter said. “That is what Texas voters sought in approving the Home-Rule constitutional amendment in 1911.”

More than 100 years later, it’s an amendment that Gov. Greg Abbott was seeking to abolish in June when he signed HB 2127 into law.

The law goes into effect Sept. 1 and will affect local ordinances such as those in Dallas and Austin that require companies to give water breaks for construction workers, the Texas Tribune reported June 16.

And while some of the ordinances affected are known, the scope of the law remains “substantially unsettled” with no clarification for local leaders, according to the Aug. 21 amicus letter.

“We hope that the court recognizes the flaws in HB 2127 and declares the bill unenforceable,” Adams said.

Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Christian McPhate | Denton Record-Chronicle