State Sen. Kelly Hancock’s bill, SB 476, which would allow a food service establishment to permit a customer to be accompanied by a dog in an outdoor dining area, is another example of legislative intrusion into matters best left to locally elected officials.
Hancock’s bill is the flip side of several bills that came up during the 2017 legislative session, the main effect of which was to remove oversight authority from city councils and commissions and consolidate that power into fewer hands that meet less often and much farther from the people most affected.
Instead of telling locals what they can’t do — ban plastic bags or attempt to protect trees, for example — this bill would mandate from afar what they must do.
Aside from being an example of legislative overreach, the bill is just unnecessary, as evidenced by the bill’s own origins. Hancock modeled his state-wide bill after Austin regulations, which he called “relatively permissive.”
So, as it stands now, a local government such as the Austin City Council already can draft a relatively permissive, or, we can safely assume, relatively restrictive ordinance allowing dogs to enter eating establishments, even though Texas health codes generally prohibit doing so.
Hancock’s bill, then, is a solution out looking for a problem.
Unless Texas lawmakers want to assume legislative, and financial, responsibility for every other interface between humans and others — rats, roaches, bats, bedbugs, fleas and mosquitoes included, they should stay out of this one.
Austin is the wrong place to debate the rights of and restrictions on dog owners, but those rights and restrictions make for good discussions to have locally, and Galveston residents might soon have that opportunity.
Galveston District 2 Councilman Craig Brown said he intended to bring a local ordinance to the city council later this month that would allow restaurant operators to decide whether dogs are allowed to be on their properties.
“I think being a tourist city and having so many more outdoor patios and things like that, I think it makes sense,” Brown said.
It’s hard to see enough downside to warrant an outright ban on allowing dogs to accompany their owners on restaurant patios. It seems reasonable to allow business owners to make that decision based on their own clientele.
What’s clear is this will be a hot topic of discussion, and that discussion should happen here, not in Austin.
We urge Brown to bring his ordinance forward and let the local debate begin.
• Michael A. Smith