Texas “Death Star” Law Ruled Unconstitutional Two Days Before Taking Effect

But Texas is likely to appeal

Photo by Getty Images

A new state law that would limit the ability for local elected officials to regulate industries was ruled unconstitutional by a Travis County District Judge Wednesday, Aug. 30.

The city of Houston lawsuit filed in July argued that the law (known as the “Death Star” law) was state overreach and too vague to be enforceable.District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble’s ruling will stop the law from going into effect, Sept. 1, but the decision will likely be appealed by the state, which served as defendant in the case.

The law, championed by Texas Republicans in the most recent legislative session, could result in the nullification of local ordinances throughout the state. If Gamble’s ruling is overturned and the law is eventually implemented, individual parties would be able to sue over laws intended to regulate a range of industries; the statute specifically names labor, agriculture, finance, business and commerce, insurance, natural resource protections, occupational law, and property law.

In Austin, local ordinances like the one mandating water breaks for construction workers, the city’s Fair Chance Hiring ordinance, and regulations on predatory payday lenders could all face legal challenges if the “Death Star” law is implemented.

In a statement, a city of Austin spokesperson said the city was “pleased” with the district court decision. “The court clearly recognizes the challenges facing cities trying to comply with the ‘Death Star’ bill by ruling it unconstitutional,” the statement continues. “The city will continue to conduct business as normal as the litigation flows through the courts.”

The Texas AFL-CIO, Local Progress Texas, Every Texan, ACLU of Texas, and Workers Defense Project – five advocacy organizations opposing the law – issued a joint statement celebrating the ruling. “Texas is a home rule state, built on the values of local democracy and freedom,” the statement reads. “The law directly contradicted those values – prioritizing corporate interests by using preemption to undermine local democracy and stifle local progress in Texas. This ruling allows critical, life-saving local policies to remain in place.”

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