EL PASO, Texas - El Paso’s legislative attorney and lobbyists described a hostile environment during a legislative update to Mayor Dee Margo and City Council at Monday’s Special City Council meeting.
Attorney Lupe Cuellar and two lobbyists employed by the city are back in town now that the 85th Texas Legislative Regular and the Legislative Special Session have ended.
But the city’s Austin delegation reported a hostile environment due to what was described at Gov. Greg Abbott’s push for blanket preemption of cities.
Snapper Carr is a lobbyist for El Paso.
"The overall policy and debate was really one of where local authority and local control would stop and where state authority and preemption of certain policies would begin," Carr said.
The Fort-Worth Star Telegram reports the governor outlined his agenda during a question-and-answer session at a conservative forum in Corpus Christi. "Abbott said lawmakers should quit messing around with this issue-by-issue, law-by-law approach and just pass a bill that says the state will overrule local officials whenever it wants," the paper reports.
“As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations, I think a board-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to preempt local regulations, is a superior approach,” Abbott said.
Such an approach, Abbott added, “makes it more simple, more elegant, but more importantly, provides greater advance notice to businesses and to individuals that you’re going to have the certainty to run your lives.”
Before the legislative session began, the city outlined the following seven initiatives for priority consideration.
1. Support Fort Bliss
Working in partnership with other Texas cities that are home to military installations, seek funding
for the State's Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant Program to fund military value projects that strengthen Texas bases.
2. Border security funding
Seek border security funding for city-identified border projects.
Seek funding for the construction of a visitors’ center at Franklin Mountain State Park.
4. Metropolitan Planning Commission
5. Film incentives
6. ZIKA prevention
7. Economic development incentives
The El Paso delegation reported four of the seven initiatives were achieved, one partially achieved and two not achieved.
Twenty million dollars was approved the final budget for financial support for Fort Bliss. The inititial request was for $50 million.
Thirty two million dollars was approved in Border Security Funding for an Intelligent Transportation System.
City Attorney Sylvia Borunda-Firth was pleased with the update from the city's legislative delegation.
"The funding for the border infrastructure is a huge win for the city of El Paso and for the state, because of all the economic development implications and then funding for the defense community. In this community that is significant," Borunda-Firth said.
The delegation reported the Parks initiative is progressing.
A bill to change voting eligibility for the Metropolitan Planning Organization did not pass.
Bills that the city opposed that would have abolished the Film Incentive Program did not pass. But an effort to require the State Film Office to provide training did not pass.
A bill for Zika prevention passed in both the Senate and House but was vetoed by the governor.
Economic Development HB 1352 passed in the House, but was not considered by a Senate Committee due to concerns from the Governor’s Office.
The city’s legislative agenda also reported Hurricane Harvey financial relief will likely play a big role in the next legislative session.
" the funding for the border infrastructure is a huge win for the city of el paso and for the state, because of all the economic development implications and then funding for the defense community. In this community that is significant."