Saturday, August 5, 2023

#217 / "Water Breaks" And Land Use Regulations


An article in the June 29 2023, edition of The New York Times tells readers that workers in Texas are, apparently, going to lose their right to have periodic "water breaks" when they work on outside construction jobs in stifling heat. Here is how that article from The Times begins: 
As the heat index hit 115 degrees on Monday, Karla Perez took a five-minute water break at a construction site in Dallas. Such rest breaks are required by the city, as they are in Austin.
But a change in Texas state law, which goes into effect in September, will wipe away those local requirements, leaving workers like Ms. Perez to count on their employers to provide time to rest and rehydrate. Right now, she gets three breaks a day. She dreads what the change might bring.
“Workers are going to die,” she said. “There’s no way around it.”
The legal change was part of a sweeping effort by the Republican-dominated State Legislature to exert control over its Democratic-led major cities, which have become increasingly assertive in pushing progressive policies at the local level (emphasis added).

This article put me in mind of what is happening in California, where an extremely "progressive" state legislature - quite unlike the Texas state legislature - is stripping California cities and counties of local control over land use.
What is happening, in both states, isn't really about "progressive" versus "conservative" state policies. In fact, major financial interests, in every state, have discovered that they have a lot more ability to influence the state legislature than they do to influence every city or county government in the state that may be imposing rules that they don't like. The state legislature, in other words, offers a "one stop" shopping opportunity for business lobbyists and special interests. Instead of having to make their pitch in front of hundreds of different local governments - in front of city councils and boards of supervisors that actually have citizens in attendance - business lobbyists can get what they want from the state legislature, where affected citizens are, not, generally, in attendance. 
That's what's going on. Decisions that have traditionally been made at the local level are being made, ever more frequently, at the state level, and local government decision-making authority is being eliminated by new state laws. In Texas, business interests are using state level power to strip away worker protections that have been based on laws enacted by local jurisdictions. 

This same phenomenon is also present, front and center, in California. In California, business and development interests are using state level power to strip away local laws that have allowed cities and counties to prevent (or to impose conditions upon) developments that undermine neighborhood and community integrity. This is what accounts for groups springing up all around California, to fight back, like the group whose "battle flag" is pictured above. 
Click this link if you'd like to join up in an effort to protect local control!

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