AUSTIN (KXAN) — Mixed in the stack of Texas bills intended to disrupt a historically liberal Austin City Council, House Bill 714 and House Joint Resolution 50 would strip it of its power altogether.
In an act the director of the Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas, El Paso called, “a heavy dose of political theater,” North Texas Rep. Jared Patterson filed a bill, and a joint resolution, that would make Austin a district with state oversight. Think something similar to Washington D.C., Patterson explained.
“This is a statewide issue because decisions that are made in Austin affect folks all around the state,” Patterson said. He pointed to Austin’s voting to become a sanctuary city and defund its police department as examples.
Both candidates for Austin mayor were highly critical of the bill and other Central Texas state lawmakers declined to comment altogether.
Political science expert, Dr. Richard Pineda from the University of Texas El Paso, explained the constitution prevents this type of oversight overhaul from happening.
Austin is a home rule city, along with roughly 350 others in Texas, which gives the city power to govern through its city charter as long as the rules are not in violation of the Texas Constitution or state and federal law.
“Essentially home rule defines municipalities as having their own constitution in most cases. That’s the city charter,” Pineda explained. “The idea that you would upset the balance of a home rule city by trying to turn it into a governable district is I mean, you know, again, I think the best way to describe this is political theater.”
Patterson said even though it’s an “uphill battle,” he thinks getting a Constitutional Amendment passed alongside the bill is possible.
It would require a two-thirds vote from both the House and the Senate and it would go before Texas voters.
In the House, that amounts to no less than 100 members voting yes. Even if every Republican in the House of Representatives did so, they would still need to convince roughly 20 Democrats to join them.
“Your voices are still going to be heard. All we’re talking about is some oversight at the state level. And I think if we could come together in that way — Republicans and Democrats — and come together and work together, then we can have an even greater city as our capitol district for the state of Texas,” Patterson said.