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Texas is in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave, with temperatures reaching up to 120 degrees in areas. In San Antonio, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Sunday, the state’s legislature has only made things worse.
“We're certainly grateful for a president now that's treating this heatwave with the urgency that I think is necessary. Especially given the fact that one of the challenges that we have is, cities in Texas are fighting our legislature and our state government for local control,” Nirenberg said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We're trying to protect residents and workers, and they are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.”
In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that bars cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state ones, overturning local rules like ones that mandate water and rest breaks for construction workers. The law goes into effect in September, if it survives a lawsuit brought by the cities of Houston and San Antonio.
San Antonio leaders were considering an ordinance that would mandate water breaks, until the state legislation was passed. Now, the city is trying to “make sure that there's a backstop to prevent the most vulnerable members, the workers in our community who deserve those basic things,” Nirenberg said, as the city grapples heat that’s caused a significant increase in emergency calls for heat-related illness and record demands for electricity.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced new steps to protect workers from the extreme heat that has plagued many parts of the country in recent weeks, including a new “heat alert” system that will notify employers and employees about ways to avoid dangerous conditions.
“What the announcement from President Biden will do is make sure that employers and employees know their rights, that there are protections in place also to ramp up enforcement activities through OSHA,” Nirenberg said.
“But the reality of the legislation I mentioned is the fact that [House Bill] 2127, which was passed by the legislature, upends 70-plus years of local authorities that have been adopted through city constitution, city charters, in cities all across the state.”