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New state bill could deregulate noise levels in 'Live Music Capital of the World'

(Pexels)

Local elected officials and community leaders are speaking out against what they call a "harmful, one-size-fits-all" bill that would, if passed, prevent the Live Music Capital of the World from regulating amplified sound above a certain noise level.


Filed by Texas House Reps. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, and Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, the bill would prevent cities with a population of 750,000 to 1.5 million people from regulating amplified sound above 75 decibels at bars or live music venues from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. in residential areas. Harris said the bill would reverse Austin City Council's "runaway red tape," which he argued has driven visitors and local businesses away, during a House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee meeting last week.

The city of Austin, which has a population of just under 1 million people, currently allows noise up to 85 decibels from live music venues downtown. Anything louder is prohibited, which some downtown business owners find problematic.

But local elected officials, the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association and musicians oppose the bill, which they feel is an example of state overreach.

DANA is encouraging its members to contact state lawmakers to voice their concerns. "The Texas Legislature wants to remove Austin's ability to regulate amplified sound!" the group wrote in a recent Facebook post. "They want to allow loud music outside your window until 2 a.m.!"

Austin Mayor Steve Adler also spoke out against the bill at a press conference on Monday at 3TEN ACL Live, a 350-person venue next door to the ACL Live box office. "The suggestion that the state can come in and say that the city can't regulate sound at that level isn't right," he said.

City council members, including Kathie Tovo, who represents downtown, and Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, said that the bill threatens to overturn the current local ordinance, which was developed with feedback from residents and business owners.

Graham Reynolds, a local composer, said that the current ordinance strikes a balance between competing interests. "I want to make live music all the time," he said. "And everyone else wants to sleep."

Nakia Reynosa, president of the Austin Texas Musicians advocacy group, also opposes the bill. "It's unfair that someone would try to come in and regulate something that has been worked on for years within the community," he said, adding that the sponsors represent cities with fewer than 40,000 residents.

Sounds above 85 decibels are harmful, according to the University of Michigan health library. Heavy traffic, window air conditioners, noisy restaurants and a power lawn mower typically have a noise level of between 80 and 89 decibels.

The bill was considered in a public hearing last week and left pending in committee.

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