Why Austin's City Attorney Keeps an Eye on the Texas Legislature

May 13, 2015

Every legislative session, there are bound to be bills targeting some regulation or other in Austin.

Which is why every session, Austin City Attorney Karen Kennard heads to the Capitol to learn more about the bills and to see if their impact on Austin would be positive or negative. These are her projections.

The legislative session will be over on June 1 — but that's not soon enough for Karen Kennard. On Tuesday when she briefed City Council, she mistakenly said the session will be over June 21.

But she quickly realized her mistake.

"God! Not the 21st," she corrected herself. "That would be horrible!"

The council's work session broke out in laughter.

A long legislative session is not the most horrible thing Kennard is dealing with. In her view, some of the bills considered at the capitol this time around are more horrible than that.

Take for instance the bills aimed at reversing Austin's plastic bag ban. There are two: House Bill 1939 and Senate Bill 1806, the latter of which had a hearing recently. After that hearing, the language for the bag ban was dropped, but the bill kept some very restrictive language.

"It would prohibit a city from adopting any regulations on any matters in which someone has a state license," Kennard says. Meaning, "things like payday lenders, plumbers, electricians, all host of manner of local ordinances, [a city] wouldn't be able to regulate them under this bill."

The bill has yet to make it to the full Senate, and time is running out.

For now, Kennard is hoping that none of the bills that would affect Austin make it through the whole process and end up on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for his signature. And, she has one more hope: that in the case of a special session, Abbott doesn't put any of the Austin-specific bills on the agenda.