The battle between red Texas and its blue big cities burst fully into the open in a Legislative hearing involving something as mundane as plastic grocery store bags, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
State Sen. Bob Hall (R-Rockwall) is pushing a bill to prohibit cities from outlawing or taxing those cheap bags in the name of protecting the environment.
Hall says it is a consumer rights issue.
"By banning disposable plastic bags offered freely by the businesses in the state of Texas and mandating other restrictive taxes, local governments have overstepped their authority," Hall said. "They are unduly restricting business practices and overburdening the citizens."
Ten Texas cities currently have laws on the books either prohibiting the use of the plastic bags completely, or slapping a tax of as much as one dollar per bag in an effort to try to restrict their use.
Environmental activists like Jeff Seinsheimer of the Galveston Surfriders said the plastic bags are a plague, showing up in rivers, fields, and beaches, and he said they are almost impossible to clean up.
"Plastic bags are the modern day Texas tumbleweeds," he said. "They are escape artists, traveling over the air and water for long distances."
Residents of rural communities reported ranchers seeing their cattle die of suffocation because plastic bags got stuck in their stomach, and oil wells rendered inoperable because plastic bags have gummed up their operations.
But activists like Joni Steinhouse says there is a bigger issue in play. She says citizens of the communities which approved bag bans asked for action by their local government, and it is not in the interests of the state government to short circuit the will of the people.
"This bill fails to address the needs of these local communities, and the health and safety of the local environment," she said.
Many witnesses pointed out that the State government was constantly criticizing the Obama Administration for 'overreach' and invoking the Tenth Amendment to demand that Washington get out of its business.But now here comes the state, interfering in the local business of city governments.
Much of this has to do with something that is all too familiar today...the growing divide between Democrat and Republican. Even while Texas suburbs, small towns, and rural areas were giving Donald Trump the most votes ever received by a Republican Presidential candidate in Texas history, the state's large cities were becoming even more Democratic.
Hillary Clinton not only carried Bexar County, for example, but Democrats grabbed the top county office that was on the ballot last November, County Sheriff, completing their clean sweep of county government.
Some have joked that the May San Antonio municipal government election in May is the 'Democratic primary,' in fact, the Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman is among the leading candidates for Mayor.
The battle over plastic bags is just the latest volley in this battle between city and state. Other measures in the Legislature would restrict city governments' ability to grow, to prevent cities from annexing additional property, and to ban cities from adopting 'sanctuary policies' regarding illegal immigrants.
The plastic bag ban was left pending in a State Senate committee. Activists said their next course of action in the name of the environment will be an attempt to outlaw single use plastic water and soda bottles.