A Republican state lawmaker is seeking to dissolve the city of Austin, Texas — a jurisdiction that frequently elects progressive-leaning lawmakers — through legislation that would turn the municipality into a district overseen by the state government.
State Rep. Jared Patterson (R) introduced House Bill 714 last week (along with a constitutional amendment) that would replace the capital city’s government with the District of Austin. Under Patterson’s bill, the jurisdiction would still have elections for local leaders, but their decision-making would be subject to oversight by the state legislature and the state lieutenant governor.
The bill is viewed as being too extreme to get passed, but the submission of Patterson’s proposal is nothing new — Republican lawmakers have for years concocted similar ideas for ways to disrupt Austin’s progressive style of city management. In recent years, the state legislature has clashed with the city on a number of ideas, often passing new legislative bills in order to punish Austin’s government — for example, passing a bill that lessened funding for cities in the state that cut police budgets, as Austin had done in 2020.
Though it is unlikely to pass, the bill could see higher interest from state legislative lawmakers, as Republicans made modest gains in the statehouse, which they already had majority control over, during this year’s midterms. The GOP gained one seat in the state House of Representatives, increasing their majority to 86 seats (versus 64 held by Democratic lawmakers); and in the Senate, Republicans gained at least one seat, with another seat still yet to be decided. Incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, won reelection to his post as well in his contest against Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke.
Patterson’s bill won’t be considered until the state legislature reconvenes in January. City lawmakers throughout the state have condemned the proposal as an attempt to undemocratically control people’s lives, even in areas where progressive lawmakers are duly elected by the people.
“This brazen attack on [local control] is not only an attempt to take away the will of the voters in Austin, but is a prime example of the waste of time and resources that occurs every session,” Dallas City Councilman Adam Bazaldua said.