Pharr joins McAllen in lawsuit against state over SB 1004

PHARR — Nearly a month after McAllen voted to sue the state over Senate Bill 1004, Pharr voted Monday to do the same. SB 1004 says cities cannot charge telecommunications companies for putting transmitters in public right-of-way.

After meeting in executive session during Monday’s commission meeting, city commissioners, besides absent Mayor Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez, voted unanimously, authorizing the city’s legal department to move forward with the lawsuit.

The city will be working with Bickerstaff Heath Delgado & Acosta, a firm in Austin. Alan Ozuna, a Harlingen attorney, sat in for Pharr City Attorney Patricia Rigney at Monday’s meeting. Ozuna confirmed that Pharr and McAllen will be using the same law firm in Austin.

“Cities are upset,” Ozuna said of SB 1004.

Pharr commissioners did not discuss the lawsuit in open session, but their intentions were clear as they voted swiftly. McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said in July that “SB 1004 has pre-empted cities from negotiating reasonable compensation as adequate compensation for the use of public property. According to the Texas Municipal League, the potential loss of right-of-way fees to municipalities is estimated to be $813 million annually.”

The McAllen City Attorney’s Office has been in contact with various cities across the Rio Grande Valley and the state to create a coalition against the bill. McAllen City Attorney Kevin Pagan said many cities have shown interest in joining the lawsuit.

“Any successful constitutional challenge on SB 1004 is going to require coordinated effort form every available Texas municipality,” Pagan said in July.

State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, the McAllen Democrat, was present but did not vote on SB 1004. The lawsuit is expected to be filed in the next few months, the statement said. SB 1004 takes effect Sept. 1.