This bill would stifle public participation when the public is more excited than ever about engaging in the political process.
SB 690 would increase the number of signatures citizens would be required to gather to place a charter amendment on the local ballot in home rule cities â€“ from 5% to 10%.
Problem: This bill is anti-democratic. More people than ever before are actively engaging in our democratic process in Texas at the local, state and national level. This bill would reverse that trend and ensure that the hurdle is too high for citizens to be able to place an item on the local ballot in home rule cities.
â€¢ The current 5% requirement is not too low. Many groups fail to collect enough signatures because private property owners refuse to allow petition gatherers on their property and public property managers relegate signature gatherers to parts of the property where there is no pedestrian traffic.
â€¢ The current system does not result in costly special elections because, if successful, the new ballot item is placed on the ballot in the next regularly scheduled election.
â€¢ Popular local ballot initiatives in Texas have included local anti-smoking laws and campaign finance limits. Even when citizen-led initiatives fail at the ballot box, they benefit the public by highlighting important issues and often result in new local policies.
The City of Austinâ€™s manual for petition review states that the 10% requirement that exists today for some initiatives is virtually impossible to meet: “â€¦ it would be difficult for citizens to get enough signatures prior to the effective date of an ordinance to qualify for a referendum. Therefore, it is unlikely [the office of the city clerk] will ever receive a referendum petition.â€
It shouldnâ€™t be more difficult to get on a local ballot than a statewide or federal ballot in Texas:
â€¢ It only takes 500 signatures for a person in Texas to get on the ballot to run for Congress.
â€¢ It only takes 1% of the presidential voters in Texas to get statewide ballot access for an independent candidate (about 60,000 signatures).
â€¢ It only takes 1% of the gubernatorial voters in Texas for a new political party to get ballot access (about 45,000 signatures).
Please protect Texansâ€™ right to participate in the democratic process. Vote â€œNOâ€ on SB 690.
Call your State Senator to urge they oppose this bill. Find your legislator here.
If you live in the district of any of the following officials, please contact them, preferably by phone! They are all deliberating on SB 690 in the coming days!
Chair, Intergovernmental Relations Committee
Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas-23) Royce.West@Senate.State.Tx.US, 512-463-0123
(cities of Cedar Hill, Dallas, DeSoto, Duncanville, Grand Prairie, Irving, Lancaster, Mesquite)
V-Chair, Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville-3) Robert.Nichols@Senate.State.TX.US, 512-463-0103
(counties of Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Hardin, Henderson, Jasper & part Montgomery)
Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston-6) Mario.Gallegos@Senate.State.Tx.US, 512-463-0106
(19% of Harris County-Aldine, part Baytown, part Cloverleaf, Galena Park, part Pasadena, all South Houston, & Jacinto City)
Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston-7)
(20% Harris Co.- Bunker Hill, Hedwig, Hilshire, Hunters Creek, Jersey, & Piney Point Villages, small part of Houston, Humble& Waller, all of Spring, Spring Valley, & Tomball)
Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio-25) Jeff.Wentworth@Senate.State.Tx.Us, 512-463-0125
(100% Comal & Guadalupe Counties & 21% of Bexar County, south Austin) ** he is the bill sponsor
Also, if you live in the Highland Park and University Park area of Dallas, please contact your State Representative Dan Branch, who has introduced the House Companion bill, HB 3458 — the House version of SB 690. He can be reached at 512-463-0367.