Special Session Agenda is Bad News for the City of San Antonio

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The call for a special session of the Legislature is bad news for the City of San Antonio in two ways, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Two items which the City strongly opposes and has vowed to kill are both on the agenda for the July 18th session.

One is a bill that would require that citizens vote to approve any local government budget and tax increase over a certain amount, probably 4%.  The measure is in response to skyrocketing property tax bills hitting homeowners hard across the state.

"We commend Gov. Abbott for including property tax in the call for the special session,' said Dale Craymer, President of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association.  "Texas property tax burdens are among the highest in the nation."

The City opposes the bill, saying the measure would grant only minor tax relief, pointing out that the largest chunk of a property tax bill, the local school district, would not be affected by the bill, but cities would lose the ability to plan for future growth.

The other measure is the bill that would prohibit the City from annexing a wide chunk of northwest San Antonio without the approval of the people who live in the area to be approved, approval which almost certainly would not be granted.

That bill was poised to pass, but was talked to death in a filibuster mounted by State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) on the last day of the regular session.

“Guaranteeing Texans a voice in the annexation process will make our local governments more accountable and limit their appetite to tax, spend, and expand with no end in sight,” said State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) who was the chief sponsor of the measure to limit annexation.

The City opposes this measure on the grounds that annexation of the Leon Springs area is the best way to protect Camp Bullis, because the county lacks the power to impose zoning in the area.  Cities also claim that the ability to annex fast growing, and wealthier areas are the best way to prevent urban blight.

Filibusters are far more difficult to mount in special sessions because lawmakers know that the governor can simply call another special session until the opponents get tired of filibustering.  In fact, measures which the governor puts on the agenda for a special session historically have about a 65% chance of passing, compared with less than 25% for bills introduced during the regular session.

The Texas Municipal League immediately expressed anger at the agenda for the special session, calling it 'an all out assault on Texas voters' abilities to shape the character of their communities.'

"Stifiling voices through an all powerful, overreaching state government is a recipe for disaster," the TML said.

Also on the special session agenda is a measure that would strip the City of San Antonio of the right to regulate the use of cell phones while driver.  The City has already lost its right to regulate Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft.

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