From Ending Forced Annexation in Texas: Hon. Jess Fields & James Quintero, TPPF, Center for Local Governance (July, 2015)
Other Proposed Changes to Statute
Many states’ annexation reform proposals have included some level of consent by the municipality’s residents also. While there is merit in including the voices of existing residents, to some extent their ability to hold their elected officials responsible for a poor financial decision lays at the ballot box. Additionally, there are some local charter provisions that would already cover the ability of citizens to either halt or end an annexation process.
However, because it is such a common inclusion in annexation reform proposals, and because there are conceivable instances in which a community may strongly oppose an annexation for some reason, the statute should be amended to include a provision to allow existing residents of the municipality to delay the annexation for a period of time.
Here is what this proposal could look like:
- A city’s residents, during days 31 through 90 after the passage of the resolution declaring intent to seek annexation, may terminate the annexation process if at least five qualified voters who are city residents gather petition signatures numbering at least 10 percent of the total voters of the most recently held regular municipal election to call an election in which city residents may vote to reject the annexation with a majority vote. If the annexation is stopped by local petition, it may not be attempted again by the municipality for a period of two years.
- While this is a high threshold, if an annexation produces a great amount of opposition, it will not be an insurmountable barrier by which citizens may hold their local government accountable.
- Another important difference with this proposal and existing statute is that the new statute should apply to both general law and home rule municipalities. There is no reason to discriminate against general law cities by only delegating to them a limited annexation authority. Home rule and general law cities should, as long as consent is obtained, be able to annex in the same fashion. The only limit, inasmuch as it is not also reformed, should be the extraterritorial jurisdiction.
- Another change that should be enacted is that areas proposed for annexation, whether city initiated or property-owner initiated, do not need to be contiguous as long as they fall within the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the municipality. This may seem a strange concession, but it allows for cities to not have to draw contiguous boundaries that may inadvertently bring in unwilling property owners in order to get to an area farther out in their extraterritorial jurisdiction. As long as the city is able to provide services, contiguity in municipal boundaries is not necessary—at least with the extraterritorial jurisdiction in place.
- Finally, limited-purpose annexation, which allows cities to gain tax dollars and regulatory authority without providing services, should be eliminated as part of moving annexation to a consent-driven process. This has not been addressed within the prior pages as it is altogether a different mechanism, but nonetheless allows government to exercise its authority over individuals in unincorporated areas without their consent.