Lawmakers have filed two bills to prevent municipalities from enacting local ordinances in critical areas unless the state explicitly authorizes it through a statute. These ordinances, House Bill 2127 and Senate Bill 814, could affect cities in many ways. For example, they would affect labor and business practices that regulate commerce or preserve natural resources if their ordinances contradict state laws. They may also nullify Austin’s Fair Chance Hiring if passed.
In addition, individuals could sue the city or elected officials for actual injuries or even threats of harm. However, this option applies if the damage or injuries happened due to regulations the municipality imposed through local ordinances. Should they pass, these bills would nullify current rules and allow neighboring cities to sue.
Supporters of these bills disapprove of cities controlling how business owners manage their affairs. Many supporters believe cities have proven out of touch when passing regulations to control local businesses. As a result, a lawmaker clarified the purpose of these bills. The bills are the lawmakers’ response to the increase in local laws regulating business and labor practices.
However, some city officials voiced concerns that the bill’s effects will go beyond what the lawmakers intended. They believe the laws might have the unintended impact of undoing some steps they took to prevent discrimination. For example, Austin officials fear the bills would remove a few local protections. They specifically cited examples, including the following:
- The Rest Break Ordinance: This ordinance requires employers to provide construction workers with a ten-minute break every four hours.
- The Crown Act: This Act bans employers from discriminating against employees based on protected hairstyles, such as those commonly associated with race, national origin, ethnicity, or culture.
- The Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance: This ordinance bans employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history until after an interview.
Concerned parties also claimed that passing these bills would affect more than just removing some local laws that prevent discrimination. They believe the bills would prevent municipalities from enacting new regulations that could protect their residents from discrimination. This concern stems from the requirement that the rules could not contradict state laws.
Other concerns include how these laws could affect the protections local areas enacted for purposes other than discrimination. For example, passing these laws could reduce consumers’ protections against predatory payday loans. However, one lawmaker revealed that a second version of House Bill 2127 would protect payday lender regulations. Despite this reassurance, this has not alleviated some advocates’ concerns.
Because these bills have not yet passed, employers must continue following current local regulations. Employers should also continue practicing discrimination-free hiring practices, as federal and state laws require. The best way to ensure your hiring process complies with all applicable laws concerning background checks is to partner with a trustworthy background check company.