Texas Republicans are being performatively evil again, and it's almost impressive how contemptuous the state's conservative lawmakers are when it comes to doing anything with government that doesn't involve hurting people.
As world temperatures spike in truly terrifying fashion, Texas has been suffering under extreme heat itself. But soon outside laborers in Austin and Dallas will have one less protection against the heat than they do now: on June 6 Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a Republican bill nullifying local ordinances in those two cities that mandated workers be given water breaks when laboring outdoors.
Yeah, that's right. Texas Republican lawmakers kicked off the summer months with a bill banning local regulations requiring water breaks for workers who work outside. In Texas. During record heat. And if that isn't just being evil for the sake of evil it's not clear what would be.
The Texas Observer brings us the story, and it's positively maddening. In the last month, Texas has again seen a spike of heat-related deaths, including four workplace deaths. But perhaps the most galling detail is that local ordinances mandating water breaks did appear to be saving lives, before state Republicans nullified them all:
Local ordinances mandating water breaks for workers outdoors, passed in Austin in 2010 and in Dallas in 2015, have contributed to a significant decrease in annual heat-related illnesses and heat deaths. Since 2011, annual workplace heat-related illness numbers have dropped by 78 percent, while workplace heat-related deaths have cut in half. San Antonio considered a similar ordinance before the Death Star zapped its chances.
"Death Star" is the critics' name for House Bill 2127, the bill that nullified water break regulations along with stripping local ability to pass any new bills "concerning agriculture, finance, insurance, labor, natural resources, property, business and commerce, and occupations." It was another of the party's Crooked Business Enablement Acts, in a state where the party is now so focused on doing crooked things for crooked allies that the state's own attorney general (finally) got himself impeached over it.
Republicans have long bellowed about how outrageous it is when the federal government steps on supposed states' rights and when state governments seize control of issues that ought to be decided locally, but all of it's garbage, all of the time, because state Republicans have been very eager to scrub out local labor, environmental, and safety restrictions with new state laws preempting local ability to do anything of the sort. The argument is that businesses cannot possibly manage to follow "patchwork" local laws, when it comes to worker rights or what you can dump in the town storm drains.
And that's a far cry from the other core tenet of Republicanism, the notion that government is more legitimate the closer to "local" it gets, and with a bizarre new side note that supposes county sheriffs in particular have magical powers in their jurisdictions to nullify whatever federal laws they feel like nullifying, because reasons.
As for Abbott, who's faded into the national woodwork now that it's clear he can't compete with fascism-boosting automaton Gov. Ron DeSantis in the upcoming Republican presidential primaries, his office is dismissing complaints by noting to the Observer that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets its own workplace safety rules and employers will still have to follow those—albeit mostly because national Republicans haven't succeeded in burning that government agency to the ground as well. If there's been a "significant decrease" in heat-related deaths in the cities that passed mandatory water break ordinances, though, that would seem to answer the question right there. Doesn't it mean that the local ordinances have been preventing worker deaths that OSHA wasn’t able to?
And that would mean Republicans have just willingly boosted future worker deaths in Texas, just as they've willingly boosted state gun deaths, because the gun-loving corporatists of the party would rather play to the tune of visiting lobbyists than protect their actual supposed constituents.
Republicanism's new insistence on doing active harm, even when doing nothing at all would have been a perfectly good option and take less work, continues to be amazing. That their own base puts up with it, even though it's that base that's put in the most danger, is stranger still.
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