AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott's latest decision to discontinue local government control of property development and construction industries has resulted in critics expressing that he is kneeling to special interests.

After hosting a recent discussion on Texas legislature provisions, the state head cut off local government's control of construction and development interests. Texans for Public Justice sent out a newsletter on July 17 criticizing Abbott's latest political move as an agenda fueled by money. The watchdog group wrote that Abbott had received $10.7 million from real estate, development and construction interests since announcing his run for governor in 2013.

James Henson, a politics professor at The University of Texas at Austin and director of The Texas Politics Project, contends that this is only the beginning of the government's plan to take control of what used to be handled by local officials.  

"The governor's efforts in this area are part of a wider effort by the governor and other state leaders to assert stronger centralized control over local governments," Henson told The Record. "As is often the case with strengthening statewide rules, he has found some ready allies in the business sector."

Henson mentioned that when it comes to property development and construction industries, it is "easier both economically and politically to engage with statewide rules than it is to deal with different sets of rules set at the county or municipal level," which could explain why these industries have given the governor such a large sum of money.

"In Texas, there is also a partisan overlay to this dynamic: the leadership in state government is dominated by Republican elected officials, while in the cities, particularly the largest cities in the states, Democratic elected officials hold more offices and have more influences," Henson said. "Most of the larger business actors, from individuals to firms to trade associations, tend to be more aligned with the Republican Party than with the Democratic Party. As a result, there is a good fit between the governor's efforts to assert more state supremacy in these areas and the interests of many of the business groups."

Abbott's office did not respond to inquiries made by The Record.

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