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Southeast Texas Astros? What Happens When Texas Hampers Local Control?

Who wants to write a legal blog while basking in the glow of the Houston Astros winning the World Series in Game 7 or when the biggest-ever parade in the City of Houston’s history is happening? Go ‘Stros! This win has made Houston Strong, stronger. But as I watched most of the government leaders speak, my mind wandered to economic development: “Can there be a repeat of a third major stadium building effort? Will there be city, county and state cooperation?

As we have previously blogged, the Texas Legislature recently ended annexation as Texas cities knew it. The consequences are unknown, but instead of having larger thriving growing cities, the economic landscape may change to the Northeast model of clusters of small individual townships. Whether in a township or stuck in a city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction or in the county’s unincorporated area, these residents are not directly contributing to the economic growth of a city while using city services and enjoying amenities a vibrant economic base brings. Like a Major League Baseball team.

Recently, the Texas Legislature was moved to protect Israel and further burden local city contracting. As last week’s blog showed, cities are now required to secure an affirmation from a contractor that the contractor does not boycott Israel. Is this a problem? While it’s not hard to comply, one wonders why the state is mandating this on a local level.

This was brought home recently when it was discovered that a group home wanted to move into a city. Chapter 123 of the Texas Human Resources Code was passed by the state to strip local communities and developers from regulating group homes. There are 24 different definitions of a group home and valid arguments on both sides. This law was passed in 1991. The basis is to prevent housing discrimination. All regulations are at the state level, which was recently switched over to the Texas Department Health and Human Services, which has never been given rule-making authority to implement Chapter 123 and doesn’t have a budget to enforce it.

The Feds have gotten into the act. The proposed new tax cut bill recently announced in Congress will eliminate the tax-exempt status of certain municipal bonds. Tax-exempt bond status is the marquee benefit of municipal bonds. The proposal eliminates tax exemptions on private activity bonds, among others. That means no bonds for sports stadiums, tollways, airports, and seaports. This proposal also stops refunding bonds which cities use to pay off higher interest bonds with lower interest refinancing bonds, according to a recent article from Bloomberg.

Cities, therefore, cannot grow their economic base; have more requirements for contracting; continue to have their authority eroded to regulate what goes on within their limits; and now may have a major financing tool eliminated. Who will build and finance the next Astrodome or Minute Maid Park? The Dallas Cowboys don’t play in their namesake anymore and their stadium is referred to as AT&T Stadium in North Texas. Is that the fate of the HOUSTON Astros? Go Southeast Texas Astros! Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like the name Daniella Rodriguez. Man, Correa, you set the bar really high for the rest of us.

Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our municipal law practice can be found here.

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