TEXAS – Texas is a home rule state, built on the values of local democracy and freedom. The recently signed HB 2127 – otherwise known as the “Death Star Law” – directly contradicts these values. The law uses preemption as a tactic to undermine local democracy and stifle local progress in Texas. The sweeping preemption law will have a chilling effect on local policymaking across the state when it takes effect on September 1.
That’s why the City of Houston filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas to overturn this law, arguing that it violates the Home Rule provision of the Texas State Constitution. San Antonio and El Paso have taken action to join Houston’s lawsuit.
During times like these, when communities are actively losing power, it’s more important than ever to hear from folks on the ground in Texas – local leaders, community members, policy experts, and workers alike – because the Death Star Law impacts every single Texan.
Tannya Benavides, Texas Chapter Manager at Local Progress, contextualized the situation on the ground.
“As a native Texan, I know firsthand how much Texans value our democracy and freedom. That’s why the Death Star Law is so detrimental,” Benavides said. “Everyday, Texans work in collaboration with local leaders to pass policies they need to thrive. So when local policymaking is stifled, community voices are silenced.”
In addition to the devastating impact, Austin City Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes emphasized the true intent of the law – highlighting the calculating nature of such a sweeping power grab.
“The Death Star Law is nothing more than a calculated tool to control local governments – to reign us in, to stifle our progress, to concentrate power in the hands of a few,” Fuentes said.
The progress Fuentes is referring to has overwhelmingly focused on supporting marginalized communities. Localities across Texas – whether liberal or conservative, urban or rural – have been building power from the ground up. They’ve passed local ordinances that expand workers’ rights, protect vulnerable renters, advance climate justice, and reimagine public safety. One example is an ordinance passed in Austin and Dallas that requires rest and water breaks for construction workers.
Eva Marroquin, an Austin construction worker and longtime member of the Workers Defense Project, explained just how critical Austin’s local ordinance mandating rest breaks is for her.
“I have worked in construction for over twenty years in order to support my family as a single mother of five. Every summer continues to get hotter, which means an increased chance for heat illness or death because of the nature of my work, Marroquin said.
“Having my rest breaks protected through the rest break ordinance we won back in 2010 in Austin has been life-saving. When Gov. Abbott signed HB 2127 into law back in June, he effectively signed a death warrant for working-class Texans like myself. This isn’t a political debate, but a matter of human rights, and politicians don’t have a right to play with my life.”
It is abundantly clear that the Death Star Law will strip power and cause harm to all communities, but it will disproportionately harm our most vulnerable neighbors – those for whom everyday life can already be incredibly challenging.
Luis Figueroa, Chief of Legislative Affairs at Every Texan broke down the law’s impact from a policy perspective.
“Everyday Texans, whether from Amarillo or McAllen, have worked hard to enact policies that protect their families in partnership with local government,” Figueroa said. “Good public policy starts with people, not the corporate interests influencing Texas’ most powerful legislative leaders.”
It’s clear that the impact on local policymaking will be detrimental, but San Antonio City Councilmember Teri Castillo underscored that the true, downstream impact of the Death Star Law falls directly on communities.
“All across Texas, communities cast their votes for the local leaders who they feel best represent their values and priorities,” Castillo said. “So the Death Star Law doesn’t just strip power from local leaders; it strips power from the communities we co-govern with – from everyday Texans.”
Ana Gonzalez, Deputy Director of Politics and Policy at Texas AFL-CIO, added some examples of the many ways this law will impact communities that underscore just how broad this harmful law is.
“The Death Star Law is the largest transfer of power away from working people and into the hands of a few extreme state lawmakers. For years, unions, workers and community organizations have fought to pass policies at the local level. These protections are not abstract – they come from our communities, from people directly impacted, and they’re the difference between life and death for the workers who need them most,” Gonzalez said.
“It’s not just worker protections that this law puts it at risk. With HB 2127, our local officials – people we democratically elected to serve our communities – will be unable to act against tenant abuses, predatory payday lending schemes, climate change, and so much more.”
Benavides closed with a warning.
“I must emphasize that in addition to threatening local governance in Texas, the Death Star Law sets an incredibly dangerous precedent for other states to follow suit,” she said. “The implications of this law, and the lawsuit against it that will be heard next week, have implications far beyond the state of Texas.”