Home Rule Cities Take Heed: Annexation Reform Effective December 1
From the Texas Municipal League (TML):
On December 1, 2017, municipal annexation as it has existed for over a century will be over. On that date, Senate Bill 6 becomes effective. The bill will require landowner or voter approval of annexations in the state’s largest counties (those with 500,000 population or more) and in counties that opt-in to the bill through a petition and election process. If your home rule city has plans to annex, you may wish to expedite that process and finalize the annexation prior to December 1.
Cities not subject to S.B. 6 (i.e., those in counties with a population of less than 500,000 that are not annexing into such a county and those in a county that has not held an election to become subject to the bill) may continue to annex under laws not affected by S.B. 6.
The League offers a paper and example documents (including an expedited calendar) explaining the current process. (The paper and documents linked above will no longer be current come December 1. An updated paper will be provided by that date.)
History has shown that the state’s grant of broad annexation power to Texas’ home rule cities has always been one of our least understood and most contentious governance issues. It is also one of the most important from the perspective of how the state dealt with its massive population growth. Interesting is the fact that the legislature has rarely acted to broadly limit municipal annexation. Even when major reforms have passed, the core authority remained largely intact. Why is that? It was because key legislators understood that cities support the state’s economy through the services they provide.
Come December 1, when S.B. 6 severely limits annexation authority, Texas will become the only state in the nation that denies both state financial assistance and annexation authority to its cities. Opponents of annexation cannot point to a single state that has restricted annexation authority without implementing fiscal assistance programs under which the state helps cities pay for the infrastructure on which the entire state depends.
Prior to S.B. 6, state leaders realized that annexation was a means of ensuring that residents and businesses outside a city's corporate limits who benefit from access to the city's facilities and services share the tax burden associated with constructing and maintaining those facilities and services.
The current legislature lost sight of the reasons behind annexation. In the process, it may deal a punishing blow to Texas. In a state that adds 1,400 people each day to its population, S.B. 6 will curtail the ability of cities to manage that incredible growth. That being said, and in spite of the legislature’s confusing, continued efforts to harm the state’s economic engines, city officials in Texas are resilient and will find innovative ways to keep the Texas miracle alive.