Austin, other Texas cities, feel targeted by proposed bills

Austin in the crosshairs at the Capitol

AUSTIN - The City of Austin is in the cross-hairs of the 85th Texas Legislature, or at least that's how some city leaders feel. 

"I think it seems pretty clear to all of us that this Legislature seems to have cities in their sights," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. 

Several bills filed this session would reverse  Austin ordinances. 

"There's a lot of bills that have been filed that I think fundamentally question local liberty the ability for government closest to the people to be able to make decisions," said Adler. 

For instance, numerous bills have been filed to allow the state regulate Transportation Network Companies instead of cities and all get rid of Austin's required fingerprint background checks.

A Senate hearing pit Austin Council Members Ann Kitchen (District 5) and Ellen Troxclair (District 8) against each other.

"This is about a company saying 'we don't want to do fingerprinting' even though it's in the best interest of the public, and coming to the state to ask the state to side with them," said Kitchen.

Troxclair supports the bills. Her stance is also the opposite of the cities for SB 2 which would decrease the rate cities can increase property taxes without an election from eight percent to four percent.

"In the City of Austin we're adopting nearly the maximum tax rate every single year and this is why we have such a, a unsustainable affordability crisis," said Troxclair. "The state is looking to make sure property taxes don't drive people out of the state."

There's also a senate bill that would overturn Austin's ban on plastic bags. Another stops the city's plan to phase out short term rentals owned by investors. Plus there's SB4 a ban on so-called sanctuary cities, which Austin is. 

"I don't understand a lot of folks that look at Washington and say 'let us have local control at the state level' and then turn around and would deny cities the ability to have that same kind of local control," said Adler. "I think it is a bedrock liberty principal that government that's closest to the people should be able to perform what it is that the local citizens want."

Of the bills Austin leaders have concerns with, SB4 on sanctuary cities has passed the Senate and is in the House. SB2 on the property tax rate is set to go before the full Senate for a vote next week. All the others are still in committee.

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