AUSTIN (KXAN) — Another legislative session in Texas, another round of bills aimed at the city where it all happens.
“Every two years, it seems that the state legislature has the city of Austin in its sights. And we kind of always hoped that absence might make the heart grow a little fonder, that that won’t be the case. But usually what happens is familiarity breeds contempt,” said Brian Smith, a professor of political science at St. Edward’s University.
Here are some of the Austin-inspired bills and where the stand at the end of the session:
HB 2127: Texas Regulatory Consistency Act
A bill that strips a local government’s ability to create laws more strict than Texas’ in some cases will head to the governor’s desk. It takes away the City of Austin’s ability to create things like labor laws and water restrictions in a drought.
“This is what the opponents called the ‘Death Star’ bill. And this limits municipalities from really exceeding state law on a lot of policy areas,” Smith said.
Those for the bill say it will make it easier for companies to navigate the rules in each city because they’ll be universal.
HB 3053: Lost Creek annexation
Another bill specifically targeting a chunk of far west Austin is also headed to the governor’s desk. HB 3053 lays out specific dates for when the annexation occurred and only applies to Texas’ largest cities.
“The Lost Creek area, which is now in the city of Austin will actually be able to re-vote to decide whether or not they want to be annexed or not,” Smith said.
HB 3899: No Blank Checks
A bill that could have derailed Austin’s transportation plan, Project Connect, looks unlikely to get through the session.
“A lot of things that the city of Austin was attacked on have actually died because they’ve run out of time,” Smith said.
What lawmakers have called the “No Blank Checks” bill aims “to ensure local government corporations in Texas follow the same rules as cities and counties when issuing debt backed by property taxes,” a release said.
Under the bill, any local government corporation created through a tax rate increase election would be required to abide by the same rules cities and counties do when issuing debt. In the case of the Austin Transit Partnership — the organization created to oversee Project Connect — HB 3899 would have applied to any debt they issue in the future for the transit program.
SB 491: Building height
Another bill unlikely to make it to the governor’s desk at this point is SB 491, which would have nixed some of Austin’s building height restrictions.
Austin did a rewrite of its decades old land development code several years ago, which includes rules about the height of buildings that are near single-family homes, but legal challenges stripped overhaul.
In the City of Austin, there’s a sliding scale of permissible height that extends 540 feet from a single-family property, “which is a huge area,” City Council Member Chito Vela told us previously.
That range is not on par with what other major cities around the state, or even around the country, are doing, city staff have said. The bill, filed by Senator Bryan Hughes, would have stripped the radius allowed to just 50 feet in major Texas cities.
The bill is one of a handful that didn’t make it to the governor’s desk, but Smith warns, a special session is looming.
“And so if you have a bill, one of these bills targeting Austin, that you can somehow wrap into the governor’s agenda, then you might have another chance,” Smith said.