In a major defeat for the City of San Antonio, the State Senate Sunday night approved and sent to Gov. Abbott, who is certain to sign it, a bill that prohibits the City from annexing unincorporated Bexar County land with at least 200 residents, without allowing the people who live in the area to be annexed to vote on the issue, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The bill that the State Senate approved was amended in the House to allow the City to regulate development within five miles of military bases, even if those areas aren't within the city limits, a compromise that State. Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), the key sponsor of the bill, said made it a 'great bill.'
"This provides a five mile buffer around our military bases where land use can be regulated by the City, while still granting people the right to vote," she said.
In fact, State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) who filibustered a similar bill to death in the regular session, said the five mile buffer prompted him not to mount a second filibuster.
"I believe that the five mile buffer is something that could have allowed us to have the bill passed the first time, but I am glad it is in there now," Menendez said.
The bill passed on a party line 21-10 vote in the State Senate. It is one of Abbott's priority measures for the current Special Session, which ends on Wednesday.
Campbell said the bill does not prohibit the City from annexing property, it just gives the people who live in the area to be annexed the right to decide who will govern them.
"The City needs to make their case to the people they want to annex," she said. "They make their case, the people vote it up."
Under the language of the bill, the City must approach residents within five miles of a military base and "allow the voters of the area to be annexed to choose between either annexation or providing the municipality with the authority to adopt and enforce an ordinance regulating the land use in the area in the manner recommended by the most recent joint land use study."
The annexation bill was one of the key measures that City officials vowed to stop in the special session. They say the ability to annex fast growing and generally upscale rural areas surrounding the City has enabled San Antonio to continue to prosper, and not become a hollowed out shell surrounded by prosperous suburbs, which has happened to many northern cities like Cleveland and St. Louis.
The City also says the 16,000 people who live in Leon Springs who the city had wanted to annex, for example, mainly work, shop and go to recreational and entertainment events in San Antonio, where they use city services without paying the property taxes to pay for them.
Supporters of Campbell's bill, including Abbott, say involuntary annexation is un-democratic, because it forces people to live under leaders they did not elect, pay taxes they had no voice in creating, and help pay a city's municipal debt they had no opportunity to speak out about when it was created.
Campbell says while her' bill will stop the City's aggressive annexation plans in Leon Springs, it will not affect an already agreed on proposal for a land swap between San Antonio and Converse, designed to provide municipal services to several low income neighborhoods.