Texas Home Rule Charter Provision Amendment, Proposition 7 (2013)

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Proposition 7
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Texas Constitution
Referred by:Texas State Legislature
Topic:County and municipal governance
Status:Approved Approveda
The Texas Home Rule Charter Provision Amendment, Proposition 7 was on the November 5, 2013 ballot in Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. It was approved.

The measure authorized a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less. This measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Sergio Munoz, Jr. (D-36) as House Joint Resolution 87 (timed out).[1] HB 1372 was the enabling legislation for HJR 87.[2]

Election results

See also: 2013 ballot measure election results

Below are the official election results:

Texas Proposition 7
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 809,844 74.38%
No278,87825.61%
These results are from the Texas Secretary of State.

Background

There are two types of municipalities in Texas: home-rule and general-law, each with a different type of governing body. At the time of Prop 7's passage, per the Texas Constitution, a municipality with a population of 5,000 people or more could adopt a charter and become a home-rule municipality. A charter is a legal document that establishes the organizational structure, functions and procedures for a municipality. Prior to Proposition 7, the state constitution did not allow municipalities to amend their charter in order to fill the vacancy of an elected official; instead, special elections had to be held to fill the vacancy. Prop 7 allowed municipalities to change their charters so that a person could be appointed to fill a vacancy for an elected position with a term that expired in 12 months or less.[3]

Texas Secretary of State, John Steen selected the order of the nine ballot measures for 2013 at random. The nine approved amendments were added to the Texas Constitution, the longest state constitution in the country. As of 2011, the state legislature has put 653 amendments before voters since 1876, of which 474 were passed.[4] LWV-Texas Education Fund Chair Linda Krefting, had this to say about the nine constitutional amendments: "The issues at stake affect all Texans now and in the future, from property tax exemptions to funding the water state plan. Given the significance of the issues and relative permanence of constitutional amendments, voters need to understand each of the propositions to cast an informed vote."[5]

Enabling legislation

Proposition 7 was placed on the ballot via HJR 87. However, HB 1372 was the enabling legislation for HJR 87. Enabling legislation is a bill passed into law by the Texas Legislature that authorizes an exemption for prior contracts or bids.[6] HB 1372 will take effect January 1, 2014, as Prop 7 was approved by voters. House Bill 1372 amended the Local Government Code to allow certain home-rule municipalities to bypass the provisions pertaining to the filling of a vacancy on the governing body and establish a different procedure for filling a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less. This amendment created an avenue by which the stipulations laid out in Prop 7 were implemented.[7][8] Read more about enabling legislation here.

Text of measure

The ballot was printed to permit voting for or against the proposition:[9]

The constitutional amendment authorizing a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less.

[10]

Constitutional changes

Proposition 7 amended Article XI, Section 11 of the Texas Constitution to read:

Text of Section 11: Term of Office Exceeding Two Years in Home Rule and General Law Cities; Vacancies

(a) A Home Rule City may provide by charter or charter amendment, and a city, town or village operating under the general laws may provide by majority vote of the qualified voters voting at an election called for that purpose, for a longer term of office than two (2) years for its officers, either elective or appointive, or both, but not to exceed four (4) years; provided, however, that tenure under Civil Service shall not be affected hereby; provided, however, that such officers, elective or appointive, are subject to Section 65(b), Article XVI, of this Constitution, providing for automatic resignation in certain circumstances, in the same manner as a county or district officer to which that section applies.

(b) A municipality so providing a term exceeding two (2) years but not exceeding four (4) years for any of its non-civil, service officers must elect all of the members of its governing body by majority vote of the qualified voters in such municipality.

(c) Any, and any vacancy or vacancies occurring on such governing body shall not be filled by appointment but must be filled by majority vote of the qualified voters at a special election called for such purpose within one hundred and twenty (120) days after such vacancy or vacancies occur except that the municipality may provide by charter or charter amendment the procedure for filling a vacancy occurring on its governing body for an unexpired term of 12 months or less.


Fiscal impact statement

According to the fiscal note for HJR 87, which was released on March 26, 2013, "No fiscal implication to the State is anticipated, other than the cost of publication. The cost to the state for publication of the resolution is $108,921. No fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated."[11] According to the fiscal note for HB 1372 - the enabling legislation - which was released on May 14, 2013, "No fiscal implication to the State is anticipated. Because the bill would not have statewide impact on units of local government of the same type or class, no comment from this office is required by the rules of the House/Senate as to its probable fiscal implication on units of local government."[12]

Support

The measure was sponsored by Reps. Sergio Munoz, Jr. and Juan Hinojosa (D-20).[1]

Arguments

The arguments presented in favor of Prop 7 in the state's official voter guide were constructed by the Texas Legislative Council. The arguments featured were based on comments made about the amendment during the legislative process and generally summarized the main arguments supporting the amendment. They read as follows:[13]

  • "Current constitutional provisions unduly burden a home-rule municipality that needs to fill a short-term vacancy on its governing body by requiring the municipality to conduct both a special election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of an unexpired term and a general election for a new term within a relatively short period. Such repetitive elections significantly increase costs to the municipality, candidates and taxpayers and expend time that would be better spent directly serving the community.[13]
  • "The proposed amendment would allow a home-rule municipality to specify in its charter the procedure for filling a short-term vacancy on its governing body, including by appointment, while still requiring an election to fill a vacancy for an unexpired term of more than 12 months. Because any amendment to a municipal charter authorizing such an alternative to a special election would require approval of the municipality's voters, such a change would preserve democratic accountability."[13]

According to the League of Women Voters of Texas, which offered both support and opposition arguments for the measure, arguments in support of the measure included:[14]

  • "Proposition 7 would cut taxpayer costs. When an elected city official passes away or otherwise leaves office, the Constitution requires the city to hold a special election within 120 days even if only a few months remain in the term. Taxpayers pay thousands of dollars to hld special elections only a few months before a regular election."[14]
  • "This proposition would provide parity in election regulations. Vacancies for elected city officials with terms of office of less than two years can be filled by appointment. This proposition would allow vacancies to be filled by the same process for all elected officials. It would preserve democratic accountability because cities would have to hold elections as usual after the expiration of an appointed official's term."[14]

Opposition

Texas Constitution
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Preamble
Articles
12
3 (1-43)3 (44-49)3 (50-67)
4567891011121314151617

According to the Texas Legislative Council's Official Voter Guide, which was compiled by the Texas Legislative Council:[13]

  • "No comments opposing the proposed amendment were made during the house and senate committee hearings or during debate on the amendment in the house and senate chambers. However, it has been observed that elections are critical in ensuring that governments are accountable to the citizens and that allowing municipal officials to make appointments to fill vacancies in municipal offices could make the government more vulnerable to corruption."[13]

According to the League of Women Voters of Texas, which offered both support and opposition arguments for the measure, arguments in opposition to the measure included:[14]

  • "Proposition 7 might increase the opportunity for corruption by allowing city officials to appoint one another."[14]
  • "Voting and elections are the best way to ensure democratic accountability. The cost of special elections is a msall price to pay to ensure accountability."[14]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Texas ballot measures, 2013

Support

  • The Austin Chronicle said, "Would authorize a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body, if the unexpired term is 12 months or less. Multiplying elections for very short terms is counterproductive and expensive."[15]
  • The Dallas Morning Review said, "The next — and small and sensible — step is for Texas voters to approve an amendment to our state constitution that allows these home-rule cities some flexibility in how they fill elected city offices that become vacant, often through death or resignation, within 24 months of the next regular election."[16]
  • Houston Chronicle said, "This proposed amendment authorizes a home-rule municipality to fill a vacancy on its governing body by appointment when the unexpired term is 12 months or less, thus avoiding the expense of a special election."[17]
  • San Antonio Express-News said, "Proposition 7 benefits taxpayers by giving cities the option of not paying for special elections. Communities should be able to choose how to fill short-term vacancies. Vote for Proposition 7."[18]
  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram said, "Proposition 7 would allow those cities with long terms of office to fill vacancies for unexpired terms of 12 months or less by appointment... The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends votes for propositions 3, 7 and 9."[19]

Opposition

  • The Burnt Orange Report opposed Prop 7, saying, "Our opposition to this amendment is rooted in the myriad unintended negative consequences such a measure can have. The maximum length of time of the appointment -- 12 months -- strikes us as too long for someone to serve without voter approval. If this amendment had a shorter time-frame -- say, less than 3 months, in which the expense of holding an additional election might be a more pressing concern -- we would have less opposition. This amendment also permits charter amendments that provide the real potential for a council to act against the will of the voters in appointing a replacement. For instance, in municipalities with single member districts, if passed, such a charter amendment would allow an Anglo-majority council to appoint Anglo representatives to minority districts in the case of a vacancy. We are uncomfortable with an elected municipal body selecting their own colleagues and think it presents an increased opportunity for corruption and unethical behavior. Furthermore, since there is such a wide discrepancy between turnout rates in May and November elections especially considering even and odd years, we worry that such a charter amendment might be strategically placed on the ballot during a low-turnout cycle to increase its odds of passage and thwart the will of a larger electorate. While this amendment simply gives municipalities the opportunity to decide if they want to put forth charter amendments to allow appointments to fill vacancies to be an option, we believe that the consequences of such changes are likely to be more negative than positive. Therefore we oppose the amendment that makes such changes possible. We endorse a vote AGAINST Proposition 7 in the November 2013 constitutional amendment elections."[20]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Texas Constitution

A 2/3rds vote in both chambers of the Texas State Legislature is required to refer an amendment to the ballot. Texas is one of sixteen states that requires this. Since the bill is a joint resolution, it does not require the governor's signature before being placed on the ballot.

The Texas House of Representatives passed the amendment on April 26, 2013, with a vote of 129 to 2. The Texas State Senate then passed the amendment on May 21, 2013, with a vote of 31 to 0.[21]

Texas Home Rule Charter Provision Amendment, HJR 87 House Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 129 98%
No22%
Texas Home Rule Charter Provision Amendment, HJR 87 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 31 100%
No00%

See also

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External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 OpenStates.org, "HJR 87: Texas House Joint Resolution - Proposing a constitutional amendment authorizing a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less," accessed May 31, 2013
  2. North Texas Citizens Lobby, "9 Proposed Amendments – Put Through the Constitutional Test," accessed November 1, 2013
  3. Texas Legislative Council's Official Voter Guide, "Amendment No. 7, HJR 87," accessed October 7, 2013
  4. Legislative Reference Library of Texas, "Constitutional Amendments," accessed September 26, 2013
  5. The Gilmer Mirror Online, "Texas Voters Will Decide: Whether to Approve Property Tax Exemptions Related to Military Service," September 5, 2013
  6. Texas Secretary of State, "Texas Administrative Code: Title 34, Part 1, Chapter 3, Subchapter O," accessed October 25, 2013
  7. Northern Texas Citizens Lobby, "9 Proposed Amendments – Put Through the Constitutional Test," accessed November 1, 2013
  8. Texas Legislature, "HB 1372," accessed November 1, 2013
  9. Texas State Legislature, "H.J.R. No. 87," accessed May 31, 2013 (timed out)
  10. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  11. Texas Legislature Online, "FISCAL NOTE, 83RD LEGISLATIVE REGULAR SESSION," March 26, 2013
  12. Texas Legislature Online, "FISCAL NOTE, 83RD LEGISLATIVE REGULAR SESSION," May 14, 2013
  13. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named voterguide
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 The League of Women Voters of Texas, "Voter Information," accessed October 7, 2013
  15. The Austin Chronicle, "'Chronicle' Endorsements," October 18, 2013
  16. The Dallas Morning News, "Editorial: Prop. 7 makes sense for local budgets," October 6, 2013
  17. Houston Chronicle, "Our take on the proposed constitutional amendments," October 15, 2013
  18. San Antonio Express-News, "Cast ballot for Proposition 7," October 7, 2013
  19. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "Constitutional changes can be open to argument," October 16, 2013
  20. Burnt Orange Report, "Burnt Orange Report Endorses A Vote AGAINST Statewide Proposition 7," October 17, 2013
  21. Texas House of Representatives, "History of House Joint Resolution 87," accessed August 21, 2013