The corporate media never lets facts get in the way of a good story. Consider the hubbub around House Bill 2127, or the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act, as the latest evidence of this.
In spite of the new law not even taking effect until Sept. 1, media outlets are already churning out hyperbolic headlines, presumably to scare the public over its intended effect (aka smaller, more focused local governance). One recent Houston Chronicle caption read: “New Texas bill ending water break mandates is a death sentence for construction workers, experts say.” Another San Antonio Express News article is titled: “Dead from the heat at 24, San Antonio construction worker’s fate raises questions over new Texas law.” Still another, from Newsweek no less, was even more exaggerated, proclaiming: “Workers Die in Texas Heat as Greg Abbott’s Water Break Ban Comes Under Fire.”
While these headlines and others may help sell newspapers and drive website traffic, they are far from accurate.
So here’s the truth: HB 2127 hasn’t gone into effect yet, so it’s a bit silly to blame anything happening now on it. And when the new law does take effect in the fall, it isn’t clear that people are at risk from the absence of municipal regulation.
Consider this. Last month, the uber-progressive New York Times ran a hit piece slamming the new law as being: “part of a sweeping effort by the Republican-dominated State Legislature to exert control over its Democratic-led major cities, which have become increasingly assertive in pushing progressive policies at the local level.” A few paragraphs later, the Times’ writers admit that: “most cities in Texas do not require breaks” and that they could only actually say with certainty that Austin and Dallas even had a water break ordinance.
Which leads to the question: Are those city ordinances even being enforced?
In the same NYT article, the writers talked to a business owner in Dallas who was unaware of it. In fact, one of the people interviewed, Dallas General Contractor founder John Foster, even added, “I don’t know what kind of home builder would need or use that ordinance. I don’t know any builders who work their guys so much that they say, ‘OK, 10 minutes for water.’ They have access to water all day. It’s not really an issue.”
To add even more context to the Times’ article, researchers at the Texas Public Policy Foundation submitted a Public Information Act (PIA) request to the city of Austin to ask whether its ordinance mandating water breaks has ever been enforced. The PIA question specifically asked for: “how many violations the city of Austin has recorded since passage of the city’s Rest Break Ordinance, Ordinance No. 20100729-047? How many citations have been issued, how many fines have been levied, and how much were the fines?”
The city responded with more than 9,000 pages of material (with just a few entries on each page). Yet in those thousands of pages of documented code enforcement actions, the city provided documentation for exactly zero citations ever having been issued for violating this specific ordinance. Again, it has no documentation of any enforcement or any fines.
So what are we to make of all of this? First, the media is driving a false narrative. While there are lots of scary headlines floating around out there over HB 2127, the bill doesn’t take effect until the fall, so they’re just fearmongering at this point.
Second, for the tiny number of cities that have a water break ordinance in effect, there is no evidence that the rules were ever even enforced. They didn’t need to be—because employers aren’t trying to kill their employees, despite what the left may think.
Perhaps most importantly though is this: Opponents of HB 2127 understand that this new law represents an existential threat to Texas progressives. That’s because the far left in Texas has been largely locked out of power at the state and federal levels for decades; and so it has been forced to manipulate the levers of local government to advance its extremist agenda. However, with this new law in effect, progressives’ ability to muscle through an extremist agenda will greatly diminished—and that’s what they fear the most.
So be on guard, the fight over HB 2127 isn’t about water breaks, no matter what the media says. It’s about progressive power and preventing the California-zation of Texas’ local governments.