Legislative Battles

Ordinance Preemption - Senate Bill 1209

Senate Bill 1209 by Sen. Kelly Hancock was an attempt to preempt local decision makers and voter authority. SB 1209 relates to the authority of a political subdivision to regulate certain activities. The bill would have preempted local licensing requirements. For this reason, the City of Houston opposed the bill during the 86th Legislative session.

SB 1209 would have added a new chapter to the Occupations Code that, among other things, pertains to the preemption of local licensing requirements. The proposed legislation stated that a political subdivision may not require an individual to possess an occupational license through the political subdivision if the individual already possesses an occupational license issued by the state.

The bill aimed to preempt duplicative requirements that affect professions already regulated by the state and would have no effect on professions not licensed by the state.

Currently, the Houston Permitting Center does not practice duplicative requirements for state-licensed occupations (electricians, plumbers, etc). However, the City does issue a small number of City Electrical Licenses for electrical contractors who do not currently possess a state electrical license that will allow them to work in the City of Houston. Passage of this bill would have preempted the law allowing the City to provide this type of license, and any other similar state-issued license in a similar scenario to above described City Electrical License. Upon passage, these types of licenses would no longer be valid, and anyone holding such license would no longer be able to work in the City.

In addition, the broad language of SB 1209 would create a troubling limit on the police power of municipalities. The proposed legislation would have prohibited the City from exercising its police power simply to regulate and license those that do construction-related business within the city. Any limit on the City's ability to self-regulate is a slippery slope, and the City of Houston expressed strong opposition to the bill to our delegation.

The City of Houston Government Relations team worked to notify the Houston region's delegation and state leadership of the negative consequences of the bill. As proposed by the bill, an occupational license is defined as a license, permit, registration certificate or other authorization that is issued by a licensing authority and required by an ordinance, rule, regulation, policy or law for an individual to engage in an occupation.

Further the bill would have impacted the regulation of the following entities that are licensed at the local level: alternative housing/correction facilities, metal recycling, and precious metals. The committee substitute seemed to acknowledge these consequences by specifically addressing credit access businesses.

The loss of local government permitting of the professional services within Houston can directly affect the health and safety of residents. The City of Houston is always sensitive to measures such as this because of lack of zoning in Houston, making the ability for local ordinances and regulation a necessity for the protection and quality of life for Houston neighborhoods.

SB 1209 passed the Senate but "died" (did not receive a vote) in House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures.