Darling: Special session is ‘assault on cities’

McALLEN — A day after Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session of the Texas Legislature, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling called the move “an assault on cities.” Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas asked why leaders at the state Capitol are “making life so difficult for us.”

As Abbott has often said, Washington overreaches into state power, Darling said. “I guess federal to state is different than state to city.”

The 30-day special session begins on July 18, with Abbott giving legislators an ambitious 20-item agenda to work on. Several of those items revolve around city, county and school district authority.

“Well, if you look at the list, there’s property tax,” Darling said. “It’s harmful. Then we’ve had no texting while driving laws for years but that’s on there — it just doesn’t seem like they have an understanding of cities.”

Regarding property tax, Abbott wants reductions in property taxes statewide. He also wants a law that would require local government to put proposals for large tax increases to voters.

Darling pointed to legislation regarding ride-hailing app Uber as an example of the Legislature’s lack of compassion for cities. A year after Austin voters decided to boot Uber and Lyft, a similar ride-hailing app, the Legislature voted last month to put regulation of ridesharing companies under state purview.

“The Uber bill — that was city of Austin voters saying one thing,” Darling said. “But the Legislature said, ‘we don’t care.’”

Abbott also called on the Legislature to limit local governments in various ways. One was texting while driving, which Darling said the city has already had in place “for years.”

Darling said he’s “apprehensive” about this new session starting, as he is with the beginning of every new session.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Darling said he hopes McAllen can take something positive from the session, but city rights are clearly not at the top of the Legislature’s priorities.

“I don’t understand the angst of the state government against cities,” Darling said. “I think they all live in cities.”