A Texas law in legal limbo would protect agriculture companies from burdensome regulations, a local business owner told The Dallas Express.
House Bill 2127, known as the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act, aims to preempt rules from municipalities that create an unlevel playing field for businesses in the state. The law is being challenged in court over objections that it undercuts local regulators.
Chris Lee, the president and CEO of Earthworks Inc., said he “strongly supports” the bill because local regulators of the agriculture industry do not have the expertise or resources it would take to build upon the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Department of Agriculture.
“Usually, if they do want to act on something, it’s anecdotal. It’s not based on the full research we have at the federal and state level,” Lee told The Dallas Express. “Municipalities do not have that level of expertise, counties do not have that level of expertise. They don’t have those scientists on staff.”
“They have a major negative impact on the business community,” he suggested.
While Lee said the bill will not have much immediate impact on his industry, he sees it as a preemptive action to ensure municipalities do not become overly ambitious in regulatory efforts.
He said that his commercial landscape management business operates in the Dallas and Houston metro areas across nearly 40 municipalities, making any potential local regulations a logistical nightmare for his operation.
“We feel strongly that preemptions are important — we don’t want decisions made without the full knowledge and information available to the two agencies already in charge,” he told The Dallas Express. “When you cross the street, literally all the rules change.”
Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled that HB 2127 was unconstitutional on August 30 — two days before it was set to be enacted. The judge described the bill as a “power grab” by the Texas Legislature against municipalities.
Interim Dallas City Attorney Tammy Palomino praised the ruling as a defense of the City’s domain.
“I agree with the court’s ruling granting the City of Houston’s motion for summary judgment and declaring the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act unconstitutional in its entirety,” she told The Dallas Express. “My office supported Houston’s efforts in the lawsuit and filed an amicus letter in support of Houston’s motion. Because the court found that the Act is unconstitutional, the ruling applies to all home-rule cities, including Dallas.”
Texas Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), who authored the bill, dismissed the ruling as a political attack and said he expects the Texas Supreme Court to uphold his bill.
“The judgment today by a Democrat Travis County District Judge is not worth the paper it’s printed on,” he tweeted. “The Texas Supreme Court will ultimately rule this law to be completely valid.”
The agriculture industry is far from the only one that may be impacted by HB 2127. One analysis published in The Dallas Express found it could ease regulations on property owners, parking companies, pest control businesses, and many more.
Lee emphasized that his business fully supports current regulations on the agriculture industry. HB 2127, he said, is about leaving regulations to the most qualified and well-equipped government officials.
“People have a lack of understanding of what mechanisms are in place,” he told The Dallas Express. “We’re not trying to reduce or eliminate anything. We support the regulations because they do good work. We just want to leave it to the experts.”