A district court judge ruled Wednesday that a Texas law that sought to prevent cities from passing a variety of local ordinances is unconstitutional.
House Bill 2127 would have taken power away from the state's largely Democratic-run cities and put it in the hands of the Republican-controlled state government. Many existing regulations in cities such as Austin or Dallas would have been nullified under the law.
Such examples include heat protections for construction workers, laws banning discrimination based on ethnic hairstyles, and even bans on puppy mills. The bill also aimed to prevent cities from raising their minimum wage above the state minimum, and was initially created in direct opposition of city laws requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave.
While the bill was framed as a pro-business bill, its broadness was expected to instead harm local small businesses. As Houston city attorney Collyn Peddie wrote in an April statement: “If there is one thing businesses hate, it is uncertainty."
“Because 2127 barely attempts to define the fields that it purports to preempt, [self-governing] cities will not know what laws to enforce and, more important, businesses will not know what laws to obey,” he said.
Over a dozen cities in Texas have ordinances that provide nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. While HB 2127 did not explicitly aim to strip the few existing protections for queer people in the state, it was pushed through by the legislature alongside several anti-LGBTQ+ bills.
The bill was described as the "Death Star" bill by local cities, who sued to prevent it from taking effect in July. Houston, joined by San Antonio and El Paso, argued that it violated the state constitution. The Houston mayor's office wrote in a press release at the time that the bill overshadows the unique needs of each city, by creating a "one-size-fits-all statewide regulation scheme."
In her ruling Wednesday, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble agreed, finding that the law “in its entirety is unconstitutional.” The Texas attorney general is expected to appeal the decision, which could send the case before the State Supreme Court, whose nine members are all Republican.