In Texas, a city can annex any adjacent land without respect for the will of the people. Senator Donna Campbell filed SB 715 to bring much needed reform to annexation by cities in Texas.
SB 715 passed the Texas Senate. Upon passage, Speaker Joe Straus referred this bill to the committee on “Land & Resource Management.” This committee was chaired by a Democrat, despite the Republican majority. It was amended in the House committee to weaken it by making the voting rights of the people before annexation applicable only to counties with a population greater than 500,000. This change was made after many cities sent taxpayer funded lobbyists to Austin to lobby against the rights of the taxpayers. However, this language was not weak enough for Senator Jose Menendez. He started a Senate filibuster which was successful in killing the legislation as the 140 day regular session ended.
The people of Texas were furious. People started calling Governor Abbott’s office and demanding that he call a special session of the legislature to address annexation reform. So many calls poured in that Governor Abbott heeded the voice of the people, and called for a special session to require a vote of the people prior to annexation.
Already, cities are putting great pressure on the legislature to neuter the effects of this bill. For example, the City of Lubbock is sending taxpayer funded lobbyists to Austin to fight against the people. Lubbock is making the claim that they are not like the larger cities on the I-35 corridor that have committed the worst abuses. However, a look at the facts reveals that this claim is not true. Currently, the city of Lubbock is considering annexations on tens of thousands of rural acres that are currently outside of the city limits. Most of this land is farms, ranches and acreage homesites that are mostly undeveloped. At least the cities of San Antonio and Houston limit their annexations to mostly developing or developed land.
The City of Lubbock committee that deals with annexation gave an initial approval to these proposals at a meeting. Residents showed up to speak against their properties being annexed. They spoke of the tyranny of an annexation being forced upon a rural area that does not want to be annexed. They spoke of the difficulty in controlling wild animals under the city regulations. They spoke of the huge tax increase that annexation would force upon them. They spoke of how the few city services being considered are not beneficial to their rural lands. One elderly lady spoke of how sad it was to see her cattle ranch annexed into the city, which has been in the family for over 100 years.
Despite 100% resident opposition, the committee endorsed the annexation to shouts of “Tyranny” with only 1 vote against the proposal. Upon further research, it became evident why the other four committee members voted for the annexation. One of the committee members is a homebuilder, one is a realtor, one is a developer, and one is a land surveyor. All four of these men stand to financially benefit from the forcible annexation of other citizens.
This example, makes it clear why the right to vote before an annexation needs to be extended to all Texans. SB6 and HB6 have been filed in the special session to partially address this problem. However, these bills would not apply to smaller counties like Lubbock. Please contact your state Representative and state Senator and ask them to support the rights of all Texans.