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State vs. Local: A Texas Battle for Power in 2015 Session

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PHOTO: The gavel comes down Tuesday to open the 2015 Texas legislature, and a battle is brewing over the ability of local governments to set their own rules. Photo credit: Stuart Seeger/Flickr.
PHOTO: The gavel comes down Tuesday to open the 2015 Texas legislature, and a battle is brewing over the ability of local governments to set their own rules. Photo credit: Stuart Seeger/Flickr.
January 13, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - Lawmakers convene at the state capitol in Austin today for the start of the 2015 legislature. Among the issues expected to be debated in this session is state versus local authority.

Governor-elect Greg Abbott has proposed the elimination of what he calls a "patchwork quilt" of city and county bans, and rules on everything from hydraulic fracturing to tree-cutting to single-use plastic bags. Among the voices opposed is Andrew Dobbs with the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

"It's local governments that foot the bill on this and local governments should have the right to make changes that protect their communities," says Dobbs. "We want to make sure the legislature doesn't take that power away from them."

Dobbs says another focus will be trying to preserve the contested case hearing process, which allows for challenges to pollution permits being considered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

"Right now it is one of the only opportunities for an evidence-based process for protecting our land and water, and for making sure that our permits are sane and safe," says Dobbs. "There's an attempt to gut that process. We want to protect it."

Other high profile issues on the agenda for the 84th Texas Legislature include border security, the state budget, taxes, and the "open carry" of handguns.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX