AUSTIN, Texas — The Latest on the Texas Legislature’s effort to limit local tree ordinances statewide (all times local):
The Texas Senate has advanced new limits on local tree ordinances — but they aren’t as sweeping as the chamber’s original efforts to virtually wipe out such ordinances across the state.
Senators approved 17-14 on Friday a modified House bill allowing most local ordinances on trees with trunks at least 10-inches in diameter to stand. It also provides ways for homeowners to lessen the impact of fines levied by municipalities for cutting down trees.
That’s similar to a bill both chambers approved during the regular legislative session that ended in May. Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed that and ordered lawmakers into special session, though, saying he wanted more.
The House can now either accept the Senate’s changes or go to conference committee to reach a compromise. The special session ends Wednesday.
Greg Abbott doesn’t actually hate trees.
But Texas’ usually measured governor harbors animosity toward local regulations designed to protect them.
Similar sentiments from top conservatives in the Legislature have made an effort to axe 50-lus tree ordinances statewide a political flashpoint during the ongoing special legislative session.
While Republican-led legislatures across America have targeted liberal cities’ ordinances on minimum wage increases and plastic bag bans before, Texas’ attempted rollback of local tree rules is unique.
For Abbott, it’s personal. He battled with Austin’s tree ordinances while building on his own property before becoming governor and today calls them “socialistic.”
City leaders and conservationists are trying to block a ban on local ordinances. But state lawmakers are expected to approve something on the issue before Texas’ special session ends next week.