88th LegislatureEducationHealthcareLocal NewsTaxes & SpendingBroadband, Education, and Gun Control: Big City Mayors Announce Legislative Priorities

Mayors of the biggest cities in Texas want the state to fund multiple programs while still allowing cities to maintain local control.
January 16, 2023
Mayors of Texas’ largest cities announced their legislative priorities last week. The group plans to urge hundreds of millions in funding from the state for multiple programs like mental health services and broadband expansion while emphasizing their desire for local control.

Big City Mayors (BCM) describes itself as a “bipartisan coalition of mayors from Texas’ most populous cities, representing nearly one third of the state’s residents,” but mayoral races in Texas are nonpartisan.

It includes mayors of the 18 largest cities in Texas. Nine of those were part of the legislative agenda press conference on Friday, January 13.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg chairs the coalition. He began the press conference by emphasizing the priority of local control saying, “We undoubtedly will be opposing legislation that would erode that local authority.”

Mayor George Fuller of McKinney argued that the last few legislative sessions have “seen a degradation in the working relationship between the state and cities.”

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Hinting at Gov. Greg Abbott’s declarations that prohibited local governments from imposing certain COVID-19 restrictions like mask mandates, Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez also emphasized his desire for local control. “The City of Brownsville struggled with some of the decisions that were being made and the inability for us to make our own decisions during COVID.”

Abbott’s declarations never forbade any individual from wearing a mask for his or her own protection.

Arlington Mayor Jim Ross urged the state to adopt gun control. “We need to have legitimate gun control enacted in this state,” he said, citing his concern that Arlington’s entertainment district might fall victim to a mass shooting as happened in Las Vegas in 2017.

Nirenberg pointed to a letter issued by BCM last summer after the tragic shooting in Uvalde that advocated for measures like “red flag” laws, universal background checks, and increasing the age to purchase an assault weapon.

Several of the mayors advocated for state grants for broadband funding along with increased education funding, including early childhood.

Sylvester Turner, who served as a Democrat in the Texas Legislature before being elected as Houston’s mayor, urged the Legislature to make a “transformative investment in mental health services,” clarifying that he means hundreds of millions of dollars.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker acknowledged her idea to be provocative, but said, “I want Texas to be known as a state that takes care of families — women and children in particular — first. What if we piloted the first paid family leave program in Texas?”

Several mayors advocated for increased state funding for education, including in the early childhood years.

Amarillo’s mayor, Ginger Nelson, emphasized the mayors’ desire to see the continuation of Local 380 incentive agreements that she said are critical to attracting businesses to Texas cities. This might be of particular concern due to the expiration of Chapter 313 property tax abatement agreements at the end of 2022.

None of the mayors mentioned border security issues, including Mendez, who governs Brownsville, the southernmost city in Texas and a border city to Mexico.

Members of BCM claim to represent their communities and want to “improve the lives of all Texans.” Cities often pay lobbyists to advocate for their legislative priorities. For instance, the city of Houston has paid over $1.3 million for lobbyists’ efforts on its behalf in Austin, according to Transparency USA.

Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) has filed legislation again this session to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying. Previous proposals have been killed by Mayes’ Republican colleagues, even though 94 percent of Texas Republicans supported such measures in a primary 2020 ballot proposition vote.


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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.