On Wednesday, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner delivered a strong message to Governor Greg Abbott and state lawmakers the day after the announcement of a special session: quit micro-managing Houston and other Texas cities.
Turner, who was previously a member of the State House of Representatives for 26 years, said during Wednesday’s weekly City Council meeting he’s “never seen a time in Texas when government wants to consume and assume so much authority and power, especially over cities.” He urged the state to leave permitting and construction regulations to the cities and focus on bigger issues like education and health care.
The mayor also had strong words on the statewide "sanctuary cities" bill, Senate Bill 4, which Gov. Abbott signed into law in May. He worries the national attention SB 4 has been receiving could hurt new business, jobs and visitors coming to Houston.
The bill requires local police to comply with federal immigration authorities and lets officers ask about immigration status of people they detain.
“That’s really kind of trying to direct the city of Houston police force, and you’re doing it from Austin, Texas, that has some serious concerns,” Turner said.
The mayor said his staff is still looking into whether the bill is constitutional, while activists continue to call for the city to sue the state over SB 4.
“We want him to show he is on our side, that he will do whatever is in his power to make sure that the rights of all Houstonians are protected,” wrote Mary Moreno, director of communications for the Texas Organizing Project, in a statement released in response to Turner’s comments.
It’s all courtesy of a Texas Legislature Turner worries is getting too heavy-handed, pointing to the new law signed by Gov. Abbott that wipes out Houston’s requirement that Uber and Lyft drivers go through fingerprint background checks, replacing it with a one-size-fits-all statewide law.
However, on Tuesday, while announcing the special session, which begins July 18, Gov. Abbott argued it’s the cities’ strict rules that are hurting local economies.
“Some local governments, like the city of Austin, are doing everything they can to overregulate,” Gov. Abbott said.
The governor wants to prevent local governments from changing rules in the middle of a construction project. He also wants to speed up permitting requirements “so that city bureaucrats can’t drag out projects and drive up the cost of doing business.”