AUSTIN (KXAN) — A bill dubbed the ‘death star’ bill by opponents — which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last week — will nix some local rules like mandatory water breaks for construction workers, eviction moratoriums and protections against predatory lending.
HB 2127 will not allow local governments to have laws more strict than the state’s in several areas including labor and environment.
Democratic lawmakers fought the bill, saying it targets progressive ordinances passed by city lawmakers. Those behind the bill say it’s a solution to a years-long push from the business community to make it easier to comply with rules and regulations across the state.
“It was really disappointing to see that the governor signed that bill. I think that for cities throughout the state, it’s gonna tie their hands in setting policies that are meant to protect the citizens of their areas,” Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Travis County, said.
Glenn Hamer, the president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business says ultimately businesses need consistent guidelines. He believes it was small businesses impacted most, as they don’t have human resources and legal departments.
“Let the cities handle police fire, cultural, trash collection, zoning. And let the state handle matters concerning regulations that our businesses need to comply with,” Hamer said.
Water breaks for construction workers
As Central Texas sees more days north of 100 degrees than it normally does by this time of the year, union representatives are sounding the alarm about protections for construction workers that are likely to go away when the bill becomes law in September.
The City of Austin passed an ordinance in 2010 to require a water break for construction workers every four hours, one of the casualties of the bill.
Ryan Pollock, the political director for IBEW Local 520 — which represents electrical workers — points out that Texas leads the nation in construction worker fatalities, largely due to overexposure from heat. It’s something the Texas AFL-CIO, a state labor federation, also noted.
“There are so few protections for workers in this state,” Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said. “We are the deadliest state to work in. The Legislature has no business actively stripping away what protections we have and further threatening our health and safety.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Central Texas chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas says he believes federal requirements from OSHA are enough to keep workers protected from Texas’ extreme heat, and that any additional protections should be made at the state level.
“One of my members has 19 active job sites in different jurisdictions. Having that consistency from job site to job site is really, really critical,” said Geoffrey Tahuahua.