King files bill to end involuntary annexation

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, November 17, 2018

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For more than a year, Bryson Boyd and the members of the Wise Citizens for Property Rights worked to get the Tier 2 status passed in Wise County to stop involuntary annexation.

Wise County voters earlier this month overwhelmingly approved the measure 15,289 to 4,567.

Now State Rep. Phil King of Weatherford has proposed a bill for the upcoming legislative session, that if passed, means counties in the future won’t have to go through that same process. With his House Bill 347 filed Wednesday, King wants to stop involuntary annexation throughout the state, regardless of size of the county.

“The way the law is set up now it gives the largest 10 counties limits, while the remaining 244 have to have elections and go through the entire process,” King said. “There’s no reason for that. If it’s wrong in Fort Worth, it’s wrong in Bridgeport.”

With the passage of Senate Bill 6 during the 85th Texas Legislative session, involuntary annexation was halted for cities in counties with populations of more than 500,000. The bill also allows smaller counties to petition for an election to fall under a Tier 2 classification, which would prevent involuntary annexation in those counties. In Tier 2 counties, cities must receive approval from the majority of property owners in an annexation area before expanding their boundaries.

In Tier 1 counties, only cities that are home rule – with populations over 5,000 – are allowed to involuntary annex.

Wise County and five other counties approved the Tier 2 measure Nov. 6.

King said several other counties, including Ellis, Montague, Lubbock and Comal, are working to get an election called in May.

“It’s a lot of work for grassroots efforts to call an election. It also takes a lot of money,” King said. “I want to take it statewide to avoid the expense of that work.”

King added that a lot of the points of the bill were argued during the last session, paving the way for this new bill to put all counties on the same footing.

“We had a lot of hearings and discussions when we passed a major bill last session,” King said. “A lot of pros and cons were discussed. We understand the cities’ position. This bill doesn’t prohibit annexation. It gives property owners a seat to negotiate.”

Boyd supports King’s efforts to apply the measure statewide.

“We’re excited about it. We’re glad to see the bill introduced to make it statewide,” Boyd said. “It protects everyone. I feel it’s not very Texan [to annex without consent.]”

Boyd also urged counties working to earn the Tier 2 status to continue their work.

“A lot of counties are in the petition phase, and they need to keep moving,” Boyd said.

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