Today I’ll pick up where we left off last week on the topic of annexation in Texas, specifically forced annexation.
In 2017, Governor Abbott did not feel that all his legislative priorities had been achieved during the regular session and called the legislature back to finish the job he asked them to do. One of his top priorities was ending the unfair practice of forced annexation. Abbott fully understood the right of Texans to have a vote to determine if they wished to join a city where they would pay taxes for improvement they had no say in, a city whose laws would change the way they had lived for years and in some cases generations.
In special session, Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 6 were proposed, both being near identical bills. Due to a very high amount of pressure from taxpayer funded lobbyists from cities and the Texas Municipal League, the bills were amended and passed as Senate Bill 6.
The problem was Senate Bill 6 as amended only gave a right to vote on annexation to people in counties with over 500,000 citizens. Ten counties were now saved from forced annexation. The other 244 counties became second class citizens deprived of their right to self determination. Inside that amendment was a near impossible cure. It allowed citizens of the 244 smaller counties to gather the signature of 10% of the registered voters within a six-month window and petition the county to call an election placing the issue on the local ballot. Between 2017 and 2019, only a few counties managed to get the signatures needed and pass the law. People were unhappy and were letting their legislators know this must be fixed.
At the 2018 Republican Convention, nearly 95% of the voting 8,000 delegates passed a resolution to bring an end to forced annexation across Texas, ending the discrimination against those in the 240 smaller population counties.
In January 2019 came the 86th Regular Session of the legislature. A search of the Texas Legislature Online using the word “Annexation” turned up a result of 117 bills. Of that there were 93 bills of significance and seven bills that specifically addressed forced annexation. After long and lengthy debate, days of testimony by property owners, city officials and the taxpayer-funded lobbyists, HB 347 passed both the House and the Senate near the end of the session. HB 347 passed by more than a 2/3 majority making it effective immediately ending forced annexation for all Texas property owners. Gov. Abbott signed the bill in a public ceremony proclaiming justice for Texas rural citizens.
I keep a copy of the Seguin Gazette dated Feb. 16, 2016, article titled “Clearing up annexation misconceptions” by Mayor Don Keil. I’ll only quote a few parts so that I can remind everyone of the mentality involved in annexation.
Mayor Keil said, “Most people fail to understand the importance of the city in their lives.” I suggest that most people in the city fail to understand the importance of the farms and ranches in their lives, the importance of where their groceries originate, where the materials to make their shoes and clothes come from.
Mayor Keil further suggests that, “A city is the critical mass of organized civilization that makes modern lives possible, if the city is not here, there is no cultural center, no sense of place or identity, there is no H-E-B, TLU, no churches, no schools, no parks, no golf course and no entertainment. There is no economic development. There are no jobs, no streets, roads, police and no EMS.”
I take it that Keil believes anyone outside of his city is not civilized, or has no culture, that we have no place or anything to identify with. Even in the country, it is not uncommon to find stores, churches, schools, paved roads, water and electricity. Personally, I believe my private property to be a park, a place filled with peace, quiet, wildlife, clean air and plenty of greenery. As for his golf course, he can keep it and I’ll keep my rifle and pistol range. As for a lack of entertainment, we entertain ourselves.
Lastly Mayor Keil said, “There are many reasons to annex and most don’t have anything to do with a grab of your taxes.” He also mentioned a half dozen rural communities that were annexed against the property owners’ wishes, suggesting the city needed those people to fill the open council positions.
I would like to suggest that the Texas Municipal League, the taxpayer-funded lobby arm of cities, says that the main reason for annexation is, “to increase tax base,” so who is really telling the truth? And all those people force annexed, none I talked to have ever to this day decided annexation was good for them or in their best interest.
The mentality of mayors and city councils, their refusal to bend or try to even consider the rights and values of those that chose the rural life are to credit for the end of forced annexation and the passage of HB347.
In truth, Mr. Mayor, if you had something good to sell and people wanted, they would freely accept annexation. When you try to cram it down the throats of proud rural Texans, you have just started a fight you will not win.