Suit filed by McAllen, other Texas cities, set for hearing Wednesday

A lawsuit filed by McAllen and 57 other Texas cities is set for a temporary injunction hearing Wednesday morning in Austin.

The lawsuit is led by the city of McAllen and includes a coalition of Austin, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio, as well as many Rio Grande Valley cities including South Padre Island, La Feria, Alton, Roma, Hidalgo, San Benito, Weslaco, Alamo, Pharr, Mission and Brownsville.

Filed in 2017 against the state of Texas, the suit challenges the constitutionality of laws SB 1004 of the 2017 Texas Legislature and SB 1152 of the 2019 Legislature.

“SB1004 has preempted cities from negotiating reasonable compensation as adequate compensation for the use of public property,” said City of McAllen Mayor Jim Darling in a news release.  “According to the Texas Municipal League, the potential loss of right-of-way fees to municipalities is estimated to be $813 million annually.”

SB 1004 allows wireless infrastructure providers and telecommunications giants to place small cell nodes, or cellular radio access points, along with bulky ground equipment in the city’s rights-of-way for approximately one-tenth of market value and with minimal local authority regarding safety or placement.

SB 1152 allows companies that offer both telecommunications and cable within a city to only pay the lesser of the two fees, which is creating barriers to competition for smaller companies and providing public land to private corporations, according to the news release.

At tomorrow’s hearing, the coalition of Texas cities will seek an injunction from the enforcement of these two laws. The coalition is represented by C. Robert Heath of Bickerstaff Delgado Acosta LLP and Snapper Carr of Focused Advocacy.

The state’s position will be defended by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

“Any successful constitutional challenge on both of these laws is going to require a coordinated effort from every available Texas municipality,” said McAllen City Attorney Kevin Pagan in the news release.