If you only watch the NBA playoffs, you might not know much about the San Antonio Spurs, a once-championship-caliber franchise that hasn’t made the tournament in three seasons and that even coach Gregg Popovich says fans shouldn’t bet on this year. And you might have missed the news in the spring when the team’s owners appeared to be considering the idea of a move to Austin. A sports team relocating is not unheard-of, of course. Just look at California, where some of our country’s most storied franchises (the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants) moved, and where some of the most recently successful teams (the Los Angeles Rams) did too. But most Spurs fans don’t want the team to move to a California city, such as our state capital, to rediscover success.
Fortunately, there’s at least one Spurs fan who has both the power and willingness to do something about it. U.S. representative Tony Gonzales, a Republican who represents a southwest Texas district stretching from El Paso to San Antonio, introduced a bill last week allowing a team owner to relocate a sports team to a new city only if the team has run at an annual net loss for at least five years and its arena is inadequate. Furthermore, the legislation would require team owners to give written notice of their intent to leave a year before they do and to reimburse state and local governments for any tax incentives they accepted. The text of the legislation is facially neutral, but it’s no secret what team Gonzales has in mind: he named his bill the Strengthening Public Undertaking for Retaining Sports, or SPURS, Act.
But again, if passed, this won’t just affect Texas teams. The Oakland A’s and Sacramento Kings, like many California residents, spent much of the last decade trying to move. So in addition to trying to keep the Spurs here, consider this another entry in the long history of Texans trying to keep Californians in California.
In early October, the Washington, D.C., City Council advanced a bill on a 12–1 vote that would allow the city’s some 50,000 noncitizen residents to vote in local elections, including those for mayor, city council, and school board. Currently, about fifteen municipalities around the country (most prominently New York City and San Francisco) allow noncitizens to cast ballots in local elections, and fourteen states don’t have laws forbidding municipalities from doing so. (The Texas constitution does.)
The D.C. bill will require a second vote, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s signature, and congressional approval (since D.C. laws are subject to federal review). And some in Congress disapprove. Representative August Pfluger of San Angelo introduced a bill in the U.S. House on Tuesday to prevent noncitizens from voting in local D.C. elections. “Liberals in Washington, D.C. who want to allow noncitizens to vote are putting the integrity of our election system at risk,” he said in a press release, not clarifying that the D.C. law will pertain only to local elections. “My bill will put a stop to it.”
The bill is unlikely to proceed in a Democrat-controlled House. But Pfluger is demonstrative: noncitizens should not decide elections for D.C.; that’s something Texans should do.
Legislating is tough when you have a campaign to run. And Democratic representative from McAllen Vicente Gonzalez certainly has to campaign. After his current district got packed with Republican voters following the GOP’s success in South Texas in 2020, Gonzalez decided to run in an adjacent district, anchored in Brownsville, where many of those Republican voters had been siphoned from. Democrats have beat their chests that Gonzalez is safe, but in late September, he wasn’t exactly acting like he believed it. He voted by proxy when the House was passing legislation to avoid a government shutdown on September 30, citing the “ongoing public health emergency,” all the while attending an event held by the Cameron County Democratic Party. As one famous frontiersman put it: “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.”
Rest assured, however, that Gonzalez was back and ready to legislate this week. On Tuesday he introduced a bill that would let military dogs be buried in national and some state veteran cemeteries, including the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission. A hit dog will holler indeed.
In early October, U.S. representative Lance Gooden, a Republican from a district that stretches east from Dallas, introduced legislation to delay the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which passed in September 2020, from taking effect until 2024. That law placed federal regulations on an industry besieged by tragedy and subject to a web of different local regulations on track safety and equine medication. In proposing his delay, Gooden said, “State governments are best equipped to regulate their respective horse racing industries, and I will not stand idly by while the federal government once again pushes a one-size-fits-all approach.” Local control used to be a fairly normal part of the Texas Republican platform, so there’s nothing especially remarkable about Gooden’s bill—except that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was co-sponsored by . . . Lance Gooden.
But 2020 was a long time ago, an old era before horse-racing groups from Texas decided to challenge the legality of HISA in court, and before, the representative said, he was made aware of harm the bill would cause to the racing industry in his home state. Which provides a good lesson: before you sponsor a bill, hold your horses and figure out how it will affect your constituents. (Notably, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, from the state with the most famous horse race in the U.S., opposed the bill before Churchill Downs came out in support of it. An elder statesman, he knew the old Derby wisdom to hedge your bets!)