A law signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been dubbed the “Death Star bill” for the potentially oppressive powers it grants Texas Republicans, who control state laws, to meddle in the affairs of local communities.
Critics are using the “Star Wars” reference for House Bill 2127 because the legislation gives the Texas GOP immense power to impose its will on Texans statewide — including many who disagree with right-wing politics — from afar. You know, similar to the way the villains in “Star Wars” plotted evil deeds on the Death Star space station. (Forgive me if I’ve erred, “Star Wars” nerds.)
HB 2127, which Abbott signed June 14, bars localities from passing certain laws if they contradict state law. Specifically, the legislation mandates that state law supersedes local regulations — including ones already in effect — if the local rules involve agriculture, business and commerce, finance, insurance, labor, local government, natural resources, occupations or property.
Democrats and progressive activists say the law endangers protections for workers and the environment, along with other measures in liberal-leaning areas of the state. Austin’s NPR station, KUT, recently compiled a list of some of the local ordinances that are most likely to be affected when the law takes effect Sept. 1, including mandatory breaks for construction workers in Austin and Dallas after a spate of heat-related deaths; housing protections related to evictions; and regulations meant to discourage predatory lending.
The potential for instant and widespread deregulation appears to be a major reason why many business groups support the Death Star bill and why many worker-rights groups oppose it. On Wednesday, the League of United Latin American Citizens decried the bill as “tantamount to a potential death sentence” for workers.
We need to put this law in context to appreciate how it’s part of a trend. In recent months, Texas Republicans have authorized a slew of power grabs that effectively place liberals under right-wing control no matter who they have elected to represent them.
We need to put this law in context to appreciate how it’s part of a trend.
In March, Abbott’s Republican administration announced that the state was taking control of Houston’s public schools, in a move that came as the governor and Texas Republicans continued their multiyear push to whitewash school curricula and ban inclusive learning plans.
And in May, the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature passed a pair of bills that effectively place much of the elections process in Harris County, which includes much of densely populated and liberal-leaning Houston, under state control.
All of these moves come as white conservatives nationwide — including at the federal level — are leading a push to diminish the electoral power of diverse communities that tend to vote for Democrats more than Republicans.
The Death Star bill has a frightening nickname, yes. But its contents, and its potential for similar laws to take hold in other states, are even more terrifying.