Patrick Henry’s famous words, “No taxation without representation” were part of what fueled the American fight for independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.
More than 250 years later, the State of Texas has finally rid itself of a similar practice that was allowed by its own cities since it joined the Union.
In May, the Texas legislature passed HB347 and it was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott stopping Texas cities from being able to annex suburban property into the city limits without voter approval.
This practice, known as forced annexation, was a common practice for decades in Texas which allowed cities to impose new taxes and regulations on people who lived just outside the city’s limits.
The only recourse those property owners had previously was to petition and vote to become an individual county that requires voter approval, a process that was tedious, not always successful, and an outright headache.
Tired of this overreach by Texas cities, residents in eight counties were able to not only get a measure on the ballot, but vote to end forced annexation in their county in the past year alone.
In November 2018, voters in six Texas counties successfully ended forced annexation in their counties, with an average 75.5% approval.
Then, in May 2019, two more counties (Montague and Ellis) voted to end to forced annexation in their counties—both with about 90% approval.
“Protecting private property rights and our right to vote goes straight to our hearts as REALTORS® to advocate for property owners,” said Melody Gillespie, a REALTOR® and property owner in Montague County who was integral in the campaign to end forced annexation in her county. “We were on the right side of the issue encouraging people not to give up their vote—it’s simply un-Texan.”
The bill, authored by Rep. Phil King of Weatherford, was more impactful than Senate Bill 6 which also addressed this issue, but limited it to only the 10 largest counties in Texas.
“Today’s bill signing has been over two years in the making,” King told the Weatherford Democrat. “When citizens and lawmakers work hand in hand big things can be accomplished. This new statute will protect landowners for decades to come.”
In Ellis County, property owner Louis Ponder also coordinated campaign efforts in partnership with local REALTORS® to end forced annexation in their county.
“Voters agree that we deserve a say in whether our property is annexed,” Ponder said. “No one should lose the opportunity to have their voice heard through their vote.”
The huge approval numbers at the county level told lawmakers that the bill was a must-pass for this session.
And lawmakers agreed, passing the bill with overwhelming, bi-partisan support in both chambers.
Dedra Vick, who lead the campaign to end forced annexation in Parker County, attended the governor’s bill signing and told the Weatherford Democrat, “This could not have been done without the work of all our local, grassroots community getting out and working so hard for over a year.
“The numbers of citizens against forced annexation across Texas were staggeringly high. As a result, all Texans now have a say in whether their property is annexed into city limits.”