SB 690 Anti-Petition Bill Left Pending

Today’s hearing on Senate Bill 690, Senator Jeff Wentworth’s “Anti-Petition” bill, was a display of the Real Estate Council of Austin’s unbelievable temerity in stepping out in front of the train that’s been long overdue–that’s the citizen participation train. This is not a time to be trying to circumvent or stifle voter participation. This is what SB 690 is really about, though RECA’s new President, Craig Douglas, today tried to stress that RECA was all for the process of citizen initiatives. They were just so very concerned that there were “too many” citizen charter amendments coming up for a vote in Austin, this was “costing the City” too much money, and besides, they argued, these pesky petitions don’t really have much support anyway.

The only problem is that since 1997, there’s only been five citizens charter amendments on the ballot in Austin, and only two initiatives since 1992 (Save Our Springs and the recent anti-smoking ordinance). Since then petitioning access at local stores has been severely curtailed. The recent Prop 2 charter amendment (Stop Domain Subsidies) had widespread support, came in at 48% and even after it failed it led to some changes at City Hall (though much more is certainly needed).

Senator Wentworth was seemingly caught off guard when Brian Rodgers blew through RECA’s claim that charter amendments are costing the city money. Amendments are placed on the ballot only during regular elections and if there’s no city election happening, the City simply shares the cost with the County — so there’s no additional costs to the taxpayers!

Did RECA write the bill and the bill analysis for Wentworth? This was real tacky.

You democracy junkies might get some entertainment watching the actual testimony here (go to Intergovernmental Relations Committee, Part II, 56 minutes 12 seconds in to the tape). You’ll see a number of Wentworth’s fellow Republicans like Roger Borgelt, Green Party parttime lobbyist Bill Stout, and a gal who came in from Bryan, Texas, to beg Wentworth not to make this more difficult for citizen activists there and in 345 other Home Rule cities.

Special thanks to attorney Michael Miller who spent a full day of volunteering to research the legislative history of charter amendment petitioning. It was great to know that the legislature UNANIMOUSLY passed the 5%/20,000 signature cap requirement in 1973 because the 10% rule was too difficult for citizens groups.

My personal favorite was the testimony of Mike Ford of InitiativeforTexas.org, who urged for a reality check on RECA who was simply trying to make sure they have access to hundreds of millions of dollars in special interest subsidies! At 77, Mike not only looks great, he is great — a great defender of the people’s constitutional right to petition government for redress of grievances.

We will keep you informed as to what happens with SB 690, since it is now in the “pending” file. Is it dead? We have no idea. But we know some in the Senate are listening to us, but not yet Senator Wentworth. You might give him a call at 512-463-0125.

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34 Responses to “SB 690 Anti-Petition Bill Left Pending”

  • Julia Soto Cabrera:

    The average tax paying citizen in Texas is not aware that special interest (Texas Legislature) is slowly chopping away at the democratic process in Texas. The public is fortunate to have citizens like Mike Ford.

  • John Melvin Dodd:

    We need more citizen involvement and not less. The Republican Party certainly should not be on the side of less citizen involvement.

  • Paul Jacob:

    Great work by Independent Texans, Linda Curtis, Mike Ford and others. Thank you. Unless we fight, we’ll wake up one day with no rights at all.

  • Great job to all who are working this and who testified. I was in another hearing and didn’t get to testify, but Americans for Prosperity is firmly opposed to SB 620. Citizens should be encouraged to participate in government, and it is amazing how elected officials are opposing citizens’ participation in “their government.” Interesting that they want citizen participation when they are up for election. We need to make sure that citizens know what local elected officials testified in favor of this bill.

  • Jay Hostetler:

    Please let me know a little ahead of time when y’all decide to use your cessation clause. I’ll be moving “home” for good!

    Born a Hoosier ~ Texan by the Grace of God ~ Michigan resident out of familial necessity….

  • What democracy really needs is to set the number of petition signatures needed for a ballot referendum to 10% of the average number of those who voted in the past two years’ elections. A lower number will make getting public concerns on the ballot much easier. The more concerns get on the ballot, the more people will show up to vote. The more who show up to vote, the larger the number of required petition signatures. It’s a win-win. More people get involved when there’s actually a chance to make something happen. Now, that’s democracy in action. Raising the number like proposed in SB 690 only serves the government and centralizes control more…kinda like communism.

  • mark:

    Thanks for the review!

  • Linda, thanks for the post. We can only keep our democracy working by aligning against these anti-democratic initiatives.

  • I agree with you 99% but wonder if you have really looked at the whole picture. DOn’t mean to be critical just food for thought.

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  • Ha!

    You would think that they world have OK’d it at the beginning instead of allowing it to go so long without saying a thing and then bringing it back up when it was too late. I don’t understand it at all.

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