KILL BILL -- bad petition bill, SB 323!
Action: Make your calls immediately to any of the Calendars Committee members to "tag" the bill (see below for list), then call your State Representative to alert him or her that you want them to put the Texas stomp on it IF it hits the floor! Find your Texas House Rep here,
LIV tried our very best to work with the committee chairs responsible for this mistaken legislation, to no avail.
Note: Austin, please don't miss the message at the end about reaching Rep. Eddie Rodriguez!
Senate Bill 323 is a very problematic and tricky little piece of legislation that could deny millions of Texans the right to vote on citizen petitions. We may not agree on many things, but this right, established in 1912 in the constitutional amendment for home rule, is something upon which we all agree. That’s because our right to put local measures on the ballot via petition is our only check and balance on local government. (Texans do not enjoy petition rights in Texas at any other level as do 24 other states.)
Sen. Joan Huffman’s SB 323 was heard early in the session in State Affairs, passed out of her committee on 3/14. The bill attempts to resolve ballot language problems to ensure voters know what they’re voting on by requiring the review of a three-judge panel. Fair enough, you think?
The problem is the bill set up a time schedule that will open the door for measures to be delayed. This is what the municipal political machines want most – to manipulate what gets before “their voters.” We have tried to have these problems fixed to no avail.
Moreover, get this. SB 323 started out requiring ballot language for bonds and tax increases for bonds to be reviewed by the courts too. But, the local government lobbies went to town on that and had those removed from the bill.
Now, the only measures that will be required to be reviewed will be those put on the ballot as charter amendments placed on the ballot by municipal government AND citizen petitioners. This opens the door for cities to play nefarious games with ballot language of citizens petitions because they (the city attorney) still gets to write the initial language. They can write bad language and then tie it up in the cumbersome process that’s been set out by the authors of this legislation.
This will do most harm to those in small towns who are simply trying to put a check on their local city government. These are largely regular citizens without the funds and organization to go to court to fight for their measures.
How can you help? Call, email or visit the members of the Calendars Committee. Ask them to “tag” SB 323 and hold it up in the Calendars Committee to die.
Note to Austin: Yesterday, we asked Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) to tag the bill. Rep. Rodriguez may well have already been reached by Mayor Steve Adler who made clear at the beginning of the legislative session – see this January 24 Statesman article – he had was out to do serious damage to citizens petitioning. This has long been a goal of the Austin growth machine.
Your message to members of the Calendars Committee: Don’t mess with Texans’ right to petition, tag SB 323!
Calendars Committee Members and their staff below: