Op­po­nent an­nex­a­tion bill

Demo­crat cites er­ror in plan that is one of gov­er­nor’s pri­or­i­ties.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Tay­lor Gold­en­stein tgold­en­stein@states­man.com

A bill that would have re­quired a vote be­fore ci­ties could an­nex new ar­eas, which sailed through the state Se­nate and was ex­pected to do the same in the House, hit a snag Mon­day af­ter a Demo­cratic law­maker raised a tech­ni­cal is­sue.

Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who op­poses the bill, suc­ceeded in get­ting it sent back to com­mit­tee as a de­lay­ing tac­tic.

Moody took is­sue with a pro­vi­sion, meant to ex­empt Lub­bock, that would pre­vent the law from ap­ply­ing to ci­ties of a cer­tain size as of the 2010 cen- sus. He said ty­ing the pro­vi­sion to a par­tic­u­lar cen­sus could run afoul of House rules and the state Con­sti­tu­tion.

“This was a tech­ni­cal er­ror within the bill that al­lowed us to shut it down to­day,” Moody said. “I don’t think it keeps it from pass­ing, ul­ti­mately, but this gives us time to work on it and ne­go­ti­ate around it.”

The bill now re­turns to the House Com­mit­tee on Land and Re­source Man­age­ment.

The mea­sure, which is a House com­mit­tee sub­sti­tute ver­sion of Se­nate Bill 6 by Sen. Donna Camp­bell, R-New Braun­fels, would re­quire ci­ties in coun­ties with pop­u­la­tions above 500,000 to get voter ap­proval for an­nex­a­tion of ar­eas where more than

200 peo­ple live.

For an­nex­a­tion ar­eas with fewer than 200 res­i­dents, ci­ties would have to get more than half of the af­fected prop­erty own­ers to sign a pe­ti­tion in fa­vor.

City of­fi­cials in Austin, San An­to­nio and other Texas ci­ties have long stood by an­nex­a­tion as a method of build­ing up their eco­nomic bases and manag­ing growth and devel­op­ment.

If the bill passes, ar­eas such as River Place, which is set to be an­nexed by Austin in De­cem­ber, could have a re­newed chance at re­sist­ing an­nex­a­tion, which res­i­dents say un­fairly sub­jects them to higher tax bills with­out a say in the mat­ter.

The Se­nate passed the bill in late July on a largely par- ty-line vote, with Kel Seliger of Amar­illo the only Repub- li­can to vote against it.

If the House ul­ti­mately passes a ver­sion that is dif­fer­ent from the Se­nate bill, the Se­nate would ei­ther have to vote on the new ver­sion or hash out its dif­fer­ences in con­fer­ence com­mit­tee be­fore the leg­is­la­tion could go to the gov­er­nor’s desk.

Be­fore the set­back Mon­day, the bill had the pros- pect of be­ing first on Gov. Greg Ab­bott’s pri­or­ity list to make it out of both cham- bers.

Moody called the bill “bad pol­icy” and said he op­poses it be­cause it hurts ci­ties’ abil­ity to have the costs of ser­vices and in­fras­truc­ture it pro­vides off­set by peo­ple who live out­side the city but use those ameni­ties.

“There are com­mu­ni­ties out­side the mu­nic­i­pal­ity that ben­e­fit from ser­vices pro­vided by the mu­nic­i­pal- ity and don’t want to pay their fair share,” Moody said. “And that doesn’t bode well for ci­ties, for larger ci­ties.”

The House spon­sor of the bill, Dan Hu­berty, R-Hous­ton, de­clined to com­ment af­ter ad­journ­ment Mon­day, say­ing he was “work­ing through it.”

On the floor, as Hu­berty in­tro­duced the bill, he re­it­er­ated a com­mon mantra of sup­port­ers of the leg­is­la­tion: “Cit­i­zens have rights; ci­ties don’t.”

“We’re ask­ing for cit­i­zens in those im­pacted ar­eas to have a right to vote if they want to be im­pacted,” he said.

STEPHEN SPILLMAN / FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives gather at the dais af­ter state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, made a point of order on the mu­nic­i­pal an­nex­a­tion bill be­ing de­bated on the House floor Mon­day. The bill was sent back to the House Com­mit­tee on Land and Re­source Man­age­ment for re­vi­sion.

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