DALLAS (NewsNation) — A new state law in Texas will soon invalidate mandatory water breaks for construction workers. It’s part of a new bill that empowers the state to override local governments in certain circumstances.
Critics of the bill have called it overreach, while supporters said it will make it easier to do business in the state.
The new law called the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act has been signed by Gov. Greg Abbott and takes effect on Sept. 1.
However, the triple-digit heat that has been plaguing the Lone Star State has prompted concerns about how dangerous the bill could potentially be for workers.
The law would eliminate municipal codes in Dallas and throughout Texas that are stricter than the state law.
Currently, some cities like Dallas mandate construction workers take a 10-minute break every four hours.
With the new law, that would disappear.
Opponents of the bill said this takes away the city or town’s right to protect its workers, calling it the “death star” bill, which is a reference to the space station in the Star Wars franchise.
One supporter of the bill said it will help small businesses that don’t have the staff to keep track of different laws in different cities.
“One of my members has 19 active job sites in different jurisdictions and having that consistency from job site to job site will be really, really critical,” Geoffrey Tahuahua with Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas said.
He thinks it will make things easier for employers, cutting down on confusion and making things more consistent across the state when it comes to labor and other regulations.
“Texas leads the nation in construction worker fatalities, particularly those in over-exposure to heat,” Ryan Pollock with IBEW Local Union 520, a labor union representing electrical workers in Austin, Texas, said.
Officials said the heat killed at least 13 people in Texas last week.
The new law would revert to OSHA’s water break requirements. OSHA, the federal agency which oversees worker safety in the U.S., doesn’t have minimum water break requirements for workers because it depends on one’s environment and health.
Again, this is just one impact of the new bill in Texas.
The law also includes powers for the state to override local laws in agriculture, natural resources and property, to name a few.
Michigan has a similar law that specifically prevents cities from having minimum wages or benefits higher than the state level. And Florida is reportedly considering a similar law that would give the state more power over a city.