Dallas Construction Workers Face Losing Mandated Water Breaks under Proposed Bill

Republican lawmakers in Texas have proposed House Bill 2127, which activists say is an attempt to erode local control in progressive urban areas of the state. Critics of the bill say it would negatively affect outdoor workers in Dallas if passed, as it would eliminate laws mandating water breaks for laborers toiling under the hot Texas sun. Non-profit advocacy group Public Citizen Texas stated in a tweet on April 30 that both Austin and Dallas witnessed more than 100 days with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in 2022, making water breaks necessary. However, HB 2127 would make these ordinances invalid.

The bill, proposed by Lubbock state Representative Dustin Burrows, seeks to reduce varying regulations across Texas in areas like labor, natural resources, finance, and agriculture. If it passes, the bill would stop cities and counties from enacting and enforcing regulations beyond the purview of Texas law. Business lobbyists support this legislation, and Republican Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the measure. Burrows argued that HB 2127 would advantage small-business owners attempting to navigate all the various local regulations they face.

Secretary-treasurer Louis Luckhardt with the Dallas AFL-CIO commented on the potential negative consequences of removing the law that mandates water breaks for laborers, stating that it could jeopardize their safety. He emphasized that during the hot summer months, laborers need periodic opportunities to drink water. Texas is well-known for being the deadliest state in the country for laborers, particularly for individuals in the construction industry. The Texas Observer reported this past week that the heat is one of the significant causes of work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the state.

Public Citizen, the advocacy organization, issued a letter to House lawmakers in March denouncing HB 2127. The letter described the bill as being excessively broad and reversing a century of precedent allowing municipalities and counties to make and enforce ordinances that local voters supported. Public Citizen’s Rita Beving expressed her alarm over the bill, stating that it would impact nine codes and overturn 111 years of law. Home rule cities in Texas may pass ordinances and regulations as long as they do not contravene state law under home rule authority. The bill would open up cities and counties in Texas to litigation.

HB 2127 could adversely affect various Dallas City and County ordinances, such as those related to affordable housing, concrete batch plants, payday lenders, sex shops, and strip clubs. Rita Beving referred to the bill as “deregulation from the bottom up.” Currently, officials in Sugar Land and Georgetown say the bill would impede their policing recruitment policies. The bill would affect anti-puppy mill ordinances, including the one in Dallas. The City Attorney’s Office in Dallas has not commented on whether the bill would affect law enforcement recruitment in the city.

Beving stated that the bill would create a “wild west of lawsuits,” whereas each city should be able to make decisions best suited to its residents’ needs. Moreover, industries and constituents differ from one another in cities like Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Corpus Christi. Special sessions for emergencies within cities would become necessary with the legislature meeting every two years. However, waiting could compromise the health and well-being of citizens. Critics say the bill would be devastating for home rule cities, and if passed, the consequences for Dallas’s outdoor laborers would be dire.

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