If you live in one of over 350 home rule cities in Texas, you have the right to petition to place amendments to your city charter on the ballot for a public vote. This includes the right to petition to add or amend petition rules to your city charter for initiatives, referendums, and recalls.
Every few legislative sessions, our lawmakers from both sides of the aisle will get together to do harm to our petition rights. On occasion, they also try to improve them.
We want to tell you a true story of how leading members of both parties tried a sneak attack on Texans' petition rights protected by the Texas Constitution for over 100 years.
In 2015, the oil and gas industry set about to overturn a petition passed by Denton voters to stop the industry from placing fracking facilities they felt were too close to their homes. The oil and gas lobby didn't want to take the time to challenge the measure in court, after passage -- the standard procedure to challenge measures. The industry went to the Legislature to quickly overturn the citizen's measure with House Bill 40. A broad bi-partisan coalition of Legislators did just that.
Many of the same Democrats and Republicans then proceeded to go for citizen's jugular -- to gut petition rights with House Bill 2595. It was also sneaky. HB 2595 as an election bill. But it was taken by Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland), an oil and gas lobby ally, to the Environmental Committee then chaired by Carol Alvarado (D-Houston). HB 2595 sought to prohibit any petitions that would "interfere with property rights." It didn't matter to them that the statue HB 2595 would have killed Texans’ right to petition for charter amendments -- a right contained in the Constitutional Amendment for Home Rule in place since 1912.
Read our HB 2595 flier explaining how deceptive and destructive to Texans' petition rights it was. HB 2595 passed with a strong majority in the Texas House.
LIV had to pull together a cross-partisan coalition, from Tea Party to Green Party, to defeat HB 2595 in Senate Committee after it handily passed the Texas House.
LIV is committed to passing legislation that protects petitioners from harassment. For example, petitioners have encountered city officials forcing them to leave public locations. More examples: Houston officials interfered with placement on the ballot, holding up petitions for years. San Antonio libraries have rules forcing petitioners off their property. San Antonio Water System, the City of San Antonio takes the cake for launching a sneak legal action to stop petitioners for the SAWS Accountability Act. The list goes on, but we will stop here.
LIV supports the right to petition at all levels of government. We need hundreds of thousands of members to take on the mighty task of protecting and extending petition rights in Texas. HINT: become a LIV member today!
City Charter Changes in Texas Are Allowed by Law Every Two Years
So, if there were a public vote to amend your city charter in less than two years from today, a new charter amendment would have to wait until the next uniform election. That might be a city election held in May or a general election held in November.
NOTE: this must be a full two calendar years.
Initiatives, referendums, and recalls have no such timing restrictions. First, check your city charter to look for petition rules for initiatives, referendums, and recalls. After that, know that there is much more to consider before deciding whether to petition and what KIND of petition to use.
The Secretary of State (SOS) interprets the Texas Election Code. But, the SOS will not help you draft your petition or advise you on the specifics of your petition.
LIV's Homegrown Petitions Program Can Help You With Your Local Petition Efforts
For more on how Homegrown Petitions can be of use to you, contact us directly. We're happy to help, and there's lots more to share!
Make sure to read our Initiative, Referendum, and Recall page