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TXAPA working with TML is sending out this urgent call for testimony and letters.

The following Senate Committees are meeting this weekend and action is needed immediately.  It is no coincidence that the Senate has placed the bills ahead of school finance and other critical issues.  The numbering of bills as SB 1, SB 3, SB 5, SB 6 and SB 12,13,14,and 15 is an indication they expect to pass these quickly.  Even though it is a July Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, their attitude is they are there and no one shows up the bills must not be a problem.  If cities and/or interested groups, including responsible developers, realtors, etc that understand the issues can attend to testify, it will be hugely beneficial.  Not because the Senate will change their minds but because the House and others will see that there are indeed problems with the legislation and serious opposition to it as written. 

In lieu of testimony, then letters, again not just from cities but from concerned citizens or individual elected officials are all beneficial.  Letters should be faxed (harder to not see a paper copy) and emailed to your legislative representatives and also to the committee members as shown below.  TML has already sent out their information to cities with copies of their talking points on Vesting and Trees.  We will send out some position statements later today.  We can't stress enough that citizens, especially Republicans that voted need to let the leadership know that, while being conservative, these unintended consequences are not what they expected.  Following is the schedule of hearings, then a list of talking points with a 30 second sound bite.  After that are some legislative strategies on how to get your message across from Focused Advocacy.  

Schedule of Committee Meetings

FRIDAY  -  Bathrooms
Agenda (SB 3, SB 91)
Senate State Affairs Committee
9:00 AM, Friday, July 21, 2017
E1.036 (Finance Room)
Committee Members (click here)

SATURDAY -  Revenue caps & Spending caps (property taxes)
Agenda (SB 1, SB 18)
Senate Government Reform Committee
11:00 AM, Saturday, July 22, 2017
Extension Auditorium, E1.004
Committee Members (click here) 

Pre-emption (texting, land use, vesting, trees)
Agenda (SB 12, 13, 14, 15)
Senate Business & Commerce Committee
9:00 AM, Saturday, July 22, 2017
E1.016
Committee Members (click here)

SUNDAY - Annexation & Voter Fraud
Agenda (SB 5, SB 6)
Senate State Affairs Committee
1:00 PM, Sunday, July 23, 2017
Senate Chamber
Committee Members (click here)


Talking Points on Annexation:

The proposed annexation and ETJ bills are complicated and confusing with unintended consequences creating a new group of urban, economically damaged, “second class cities” both large and small.  They pit neighbor against new neighbor and force cities to annex more homeowners not less.  These second class cities will no longer be able to protect themselves from hazardous and blighting uses developing adjacent to them.  Do not damage an already precarious system with last minute legislation.  Fix that system over the next two years.

Annexation/ETJ talking points

  1. Annexation/ETJ laws are a complex mess, we agree – need to be totally recodified in order to make sense of them, to even understand impacts of proposed bills.
  2. Current laws have reached a delicate equilibrium protecting both cities and property owners
    1. 100 residential parcel rule protects residential subdivisions
    2. New law allowing use of ROW to reach out to voluntary annexations allows cities to avoid residential subdivisions
    3. Developer agreements allow cities to defer annexation of large AG tracts/ranches for long periods of time until they start developing
  3. Proposed bills have numerous unintended consequences and are band aids on an already complex process
    1. HB 187 will force cities to annex more homes and residential subdivisions, not less.  It guts the advantage of using developer agreements.  AG properties with state mandated developer agreements would no longer extend the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) of a city and could not be considered as part of the 1,000 foot width required by current statute.  All cities will be forced to annex 1,000 feet of non-AG properties (which would be homes and businesses)
    2. HB 6 and SB 6 has 57 pages of band aids on an already convoluted annexation system that negatively affect cities in urban and rural counties
      1. Tier 2 cities will become second class cities. Tier 2 cities that extend into Tier 1 counties cannot annex without petition.  Grand Prairie is in four counties, two of which are less than 500,000 population.  Mansfield and Midlothian will not have a petition requirement but Grand Prairie will in Ellis and Johnson counties.

 ii     Second class Tier 2 and Tier 1 cities will be economically impacted.  Fort Worth, Hudson Oaks, Willow Park and Weatherford have fixed ETJ’s and do not compete for annexed territory, yet Fort Worth could not annex without petition in Parker County.  It is to the advantage of the small adjacent cities for Fort Worth to annex and develop in their ETJ with subdivisions like Walsh Ranch without impediment.  Numerous newspaper articles have been written about adjacent Tier 1 cities counting on Fort Worth growth for their own economic development.

iii.   Second class Tier 2 cities have to pit existing residents against new ones.  A city wide election to annex areas that have petitioned for annexation will cause conflict between new residents who want to be in a city and existing taxpayers.  (appears to be the intent)

iv.  Second class cities will not be able to annex and control hazardous/detrimental uses.  There are numerous uses that develop next to cities that not only blight the future development of the city but are hazardous.  Uses such as fertilizer plants (West) and propane facilities will never request annexation.  Neither will sexually oriented businesses, auto salvage yards and head shops.

4. Recommendations 

  1. Do not adopt these bills with demonstrated problems and unintended consequences in a 30 day hurry.  Create committees with representatives from all groups including cities, urban developers, rural developers, and rural subdivisions.  Spend two years on re-codification of the existing annexation statutes so impacts of changes will be understood. 
  2. Amend the 1,000 foot rule so cities, in order to grow, do not have to annex residential subdivisions they don’t even want
  3. Do not create a system of first and second class cities, both economically and growth wise.
  4. Do not pit existing and future residents against each other.
  5. Do not put one class of cities, both large and small, at an economic disadvantage to other cities. 
  6. If annexation of single family, residential subdivisions is the problem (as majority of testimony showed) restrict the changes to just existing residential subdivisions.

Suggested Legislative Strategies

The following are suggestions from Focused Advocacy on how to get your position across.  If you will copy them as well as TML on faxes etc.  they will make sure they get to the committee members and legislators.  

Please huddle with your management team and elected officials to discuss the following items:
 
1. Meet with your legislators.  It’s critical that legislators and mayors/city managers get together to talk about the issues.  You must let them know your opposition/concerns with specific bills.  The specials session convenes next week but lawmakers will be coming back and forth constantly.  They will not stay in Austin the entire time.  Don’t give up meeting with them just because the special session starts. 

 2. Request (via formal letter) a meeting with the Governor.  Abbott absolutely must hear from the cities.  Otherwise he’ll (rightfully) think it’s ok to continue down the path of eroding local control.  Cities needs to request a meeting with the Governor to discuss the issues. 

3. Schedule time to come to Austin.  Council members need to book time to make the rounds at the Capitol.  Assume they will be in Session Tuesday-Thursday every week.  Work out a schedule to have rotating members of council members/mayor to come to Austin and make the rounds each week.  We need a serious on the ground presence during special. Mayor and council members from across the state need to be at the Capitol every week. 

4. Ask legislators to focus on real problems.  Write a letter to your state rep and senator (and cc the Speaker and Lt. Governor) aasking them to focus on real issues like: Constitutional prohibition on unfunded mandates; Transportation funding to end congestion in metro areas; and Sales price disclosure on commercial property -- or insert any other issue that important to your city. 

5. Use the budget process.  Lastly, utilize the budget workshops and hearings that are happening right now by inviting your legislators and the media to attend. Do whatever you can to use the budget process that is happening back home right now to demonstrate how it works and what citizens are saying.