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Darren Hodges

Bill to outlaw non-discrimination ordinances filed

From The Observer:

RedEquality

A Fort Bend County Republican has introduced a bill that would bar cities from adopting or enforcing non-discrimination ordinances that include protected classes not contained in state law. Texas law doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

As a result, state Rep. Rick Miller’s House Bill 1556 would undo LGBT protections passed by numerous cities, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and Plano. Altogether more than 7.5 million Texas are covered by such ordinances.

“HB 1556 will prevent local governments from expanding business regulations beyond limitations established in state law,” Miller told the Observer. “Competing and inconsistent local ordinances interfere with economic liberty and discourage business expansion. By promoting instead of restricting business growth, this bill is about job creation and an improved state economy, both of which have a direct, positive impact on Texas citizens.

“Because every private business is different, nothing in the bill prevents local businesses from voluntarily adopting their own discrimination policy not currently included in state law,” he added.

Rep. Miller’s son, Beau Miller, an openly gay 41-year-old Houston attorney, is an HIV and LGBT activist. Miller said he was “extremely disappointed” to learn about his father’s bill.

“If the bill progresses through the Legislature, I’m sure there will be a robust conversation about the impact not only on minority communities, such as the LGBT community, but also on local rule in Texas,” Beau Miller said. He also posted a response to the bill on Facebook.

Miller’s bill is the counterpoint to Sen. Jose Rodriguez’s statewide non-discrimination bill that was also filed last week. It’s a more limited approach than Sen. Don Huffines’ bill to outlaw cities, which makes it more dangerous. I imagine family gatherings at the Miller house will be a bit more awkward now, and that’s a good thing. Rep. Miller should feel bad about this. It’s an appropriate response for when one does something offensive and wrong and gets called out on it.

As we know, strangling local control has been a running theme this session, with Greg Abbott and the Republican legislature deciding that they are the only valid authority in Texas. Thankfully, there is finally starting to be some organized pushback on this.

Local Control Texas — composed of Central Texas environmentalists, workers’ rights groups and Republicans from rural areas and small cities — might be the one thing stopping a governor-inspired effort at the Capitol to target some local ordinances.

Already, Local Control Texas has had some success, getting out-of-the-way towns like Montgomery — 50 miles north of Houston — to pass or consider resolutions that call some of the proposed legislation an overreach. The effort seeks to broaden opposition beyond major cities like Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, which have passed some of the local ordinances Abbott wants to pull back.

“What looks weird to some looks like home to others who create software and startups and street art,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler told the American-Statesman in January as he sought to defend the local rules following Abbott’s swipe.

“We ask that you refrain from hindering local governments’ abilities to serve the interests of their residents,” the group’s founders have written in an open letter to state leaders and lawmakers that is posted on the group’s website, localcontroltexas.org.

The signees of that letter include Darren Hodges, Fort Stockton’s Mayor Pro Tem who also identifies himself as a tea partier; Lanham Lyne, a former Republican state representative and mayor from Wichita Falls who runs an oil and gas exploration business; the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance; the Workers Defense Project; and the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

“Austin is a bit hypocritical, complaining to Washington, D.C., and then going around and telling local communities what to do,” Hodges, who has championed a plastic-bag ban in Fort Stockton, told the American-Statesman.

Karen Darcy, a member of the North Shore Republican Women, which meets by Lake Conroe, north of Houston, says she’s called her state representative and state senator — both Republicans — to ask them to fight proposals that threaten local control.

“If the majority at a local level have a problem with something, it’s up to that jurisdiction to decide what’s best for its citizens,” she said.

The Local Control Texas website is here if you want to check it out. Their efforts are badly needed, and I definitely appreciate the Republican participation on it, since this message needs to be bipartisan. What also needs to happen is for these same Republicans to be prepared to vote against at least some of the politicians that are doing this to their cities and counties. They can pick their spots as needed, but as with many other things, until someone actually loses an election as a result of being on the wrong side of an issue like this, there won’t be any incentive to be on the right side. Consequences can be quite motivating, if they exist.