Grassroots organizations are continuing their fight to strike down a constitutional amendment passed in 2021 that would allow counties to issue more taxpayer-backed debt.
Proposition 2, which passed with 63 percent of the vote, authorizes counties to issue bonds (debt) to fund infrastructure and transportation projects in underdeveloped, unproductive, or blighted areas.
A lawsuit alleges that the ballot language that was put before voters failed to comply with common law requirements and was substantially misleading due to an omission of the phrase “ad valorem tax increases.”
Courts have previously ruled that ballot propositions be described with “such definiteness and certainty that the voters are not misled.”
In 2011, the same ballot proposition was put before voters with language noting the tax implications and failed to pass.
The lawsuit was brought by Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, Grassroots America – We The People, and the True Texas Project. While a lower court sided with those organizations, the state appealed the decision—leading to a hearing in the Seventh District Court of Appeals in Amarillo on Wednesday.
Terri Hall, the founder and director of TURF, says the groups brought the lawsuit forward because they believed the legislature was “intentionally trying to mislead voters” when they wrote the ballot language in 2021.
“It’s very clear that they were intentionally knowing that if we tell the voters this is going to increase your property taxes, we know they’re gonna reject it,” said Hall.
“We think those kinds of shenanigans, when it is that brazen and that blatant, we need to slap this down. And we hope the courts will do that,” she added.
Rachel Hale with GAWTP agreed, saying that the grassroots groups joined together to stop voters from being misled.
“There’s power in the grassroots, and I think we have seen that through this last legislative session,” said Hale. “And so we need to band together as conservatives, and we need to hold our government accountable.”
The state, meanwhile, has maintained that legislative immunity prohibits these kinds of lawsuits, and that voters should work through the political process if they have grievances.
Tony McDonald, who argued the case for the grassroots organizations, says he believes the court was receptive to their arguments and hopes the court ensures voters are not misled.
When that decision comes could be anyone’s guess.
“The court will make its decision and issue an opinion,” said McDonald. “There’s no real deadline for that. Sometimes these things might take a couple months, two or three months. It could take a year; it could take longer. You never really know. So we’ll just wait and see what the court rules.”