Governor Abbott's Local Control Misstep

Local control versus centralized control has long been a dividing line between the left and the right for ages. In fact, the Federalists that wrote the US Constitution were implicit that they wanted a system of government that was decentralized, putting the power with the people, not in some far off capitol.

The left has long wanted to control our lives from Austin or DC, having government bureaucrats make every important decision in our lives. If it wasn’t so scary, you would laugh at the moniker of the Independent School District: can you name any decision a school district can make without approval of Austin or DC? Why has it gotten this bad? Because our betters in Austin and DC think they know better than us little people. That includes some in the Republican Party.

Greg Abbott made a statement to a group of business leaders at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, just before his inauguration, on local regulations that upset folks that have fought for local control of their cities. According to the Dallas Morning News, he stated: “It is being done in the cities with bag bans, fracking bans, tree-cutting bans. We are forming a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that are eroding the Texas model. Some cities are telling citizens you don’t own some of the things on your property that you have purchased and owned for a long time, things like trees. This is a form of collectivism.”

The DMN went on to say, “Unchecked overregulation by cities will turn the Texas miracle into the California nightmare. That is contrary to my vision for Texas.” He did not specify what new state laws he might support to limit the regulatory authority of cities, counties and other local government bodies. But his message was clear he would like to see some legislation this year.

The issues he mentions are stupid nanny state policies, but they were decided by elected officials representing their constituents. City Council members are neighbors, they are members of your congregation, their kids attend the same schools, and you usually will bump into them at a local baseball game or at the grocery store. They are held accountable by their local constituents, not by a bureaucrat in Austin or a statewide elected leader. They are also limited in what sorts of laws they can pass and administer by both the State and US Constitution; and many people feel some of these overreaches by cities, such as the fracking ban, will be overturned in court.

If Governor Abbott wishes to address some of these issues with constitutional changes that enhance personal property rights, liberty loving Texans will cheer. If he wishes to attack this problem by passing legislation that continues to take away local control, I can see folks from all walks of life fighting him.

I reached out to the Texas Municipal League for comment on Governor Abbott’s statements and Executive Director Bennett Sandlin said “TML believes that local control is the best approach to local problems. Contrary to the idea that local control takes away liberty, sensible city regulations protect property values and respond to the needs of city residents. Smaller government is the best. TML will work closely with Governor Abbott to realize his goal of expanding the 'Texas Miracle.'”

Governor Abbott used the term collectivism at the Texas Public Policy Foundation gathering. The most disturbing part of this story is that you could also use the same term to describe the way he wants to take the rights of the citizens to govern themselves and place that power with a bureaucrat in Austin...all for the collective benefit.


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