Last February, Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivered his first State of the State and made some promising proclamations. “It’s time for property owners — not government — to truly own their property,” he stated. He also made ethics reforms pledges, “prohibiting lawmakers from voting on legislation from which they could profit and more disclosure of campaign finance information.”
Abbott’s commitment to giving citizens a real say in their property uses and taking on legislative influence-peddling couldn’t have come at a better time for the people of Denton, Texas. In November of 2014, the Dentonians voted overwhelmingly to protect their property, their children and their communities from the many adverse impacts of fracking, an irresponsible and largely unregulated method of gas extraction. Abbott’s promises presumably meant that under his watch, government would never be allowed to strip away the democratic rights of Denton’s local citizens at the behest of industry.
But then in May Abbott signed into law HB40, a bill reportedly scripted by the oil and gas industry, thereby stripping away the property and local voting rights of the citizens of the city of Denton and every other town and city in Texas. Industry’s lawyers wasted no time running into court to bully Denton’s City Council into dropping its ban under the threat of attorney’s fees.
Abbott, like so many others who take up the mantle of political life in Texas and elsewhere quickly embraced the “talk is cheap, but campaigns are expensive” mindset that permeates our political system — his oil and gas buddies had funded his gubernatorial election to the tune of over $1.5 million, more than any industry in the state.