By The Brownsville Herald
The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday heard arguments on the validity of Laredo’s plastic bag ordinance. Its ruling will affect all Texas cities that have similar ordinances, including some in the Rio Grande Valley.
Whether or not people agree with such bans, they should hope the all-Republican court supports cities’ rights to pass such ordinances.
When Republicans have been the opposition party, whether at the state or federal level, much of their opposition has invoked the notion of states’ rights and local control. Once they’re in power, however, their actions often belie their words.
Cases in point include federal and state threats to penalize “sanctuary cities,” those that either believe it hinders community policing or don’t believe local law enforcement has the authority to enforce federal laws. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a federal crackdown on marijuana use, even in states that have chosen to allow the medical or recreational use of the substance.
In recent years Texas has sought to nullify local bans on plastic shopping bags. Brownsville, Laguna Vista and South Padre Island are among several Texas cities that have imposed such bans.
State Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Brownsville in 2016 over its bag ban and related environmental fee; the case was settled last year. In the current case, the Laredo Merchants Association has sued its city, claiming that state laws governing containers supersede the city ordinance banning plastic bags.
Regardless of one’s opinion on plastic bans or even marijuana, such laws and ordinances that affect personal behavior are best handled at the local level. For one, the repercussions of such laws would affect the specific cities without hurting the entire state. Texas and other states have lost concerts, sporting events and business investment after passing laws restricting the use of public restrooms.
More importantly, the people would have more control over such ordinances. Not only could residents voice their opinions on proposals before they are passed, they also could vote officials in or out according to their stance on the issues.
That seems more in line with politicians’ stated preference for individual rights — and with the goals expressed in Abraham Lincoln’s universally celebrated Gettysburg Address: “… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
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