Constitutional Amendment Propositions:

Prohibition on Using Public Funds to Advocate

As reported in a previous edition of the Legislative Update, six out of nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on the November 5 ballot directly affect Texas cities. While city officials may believe that some or all of the amendments are important, state law prohibits a city from spending public funds to support or oppose any election measure, including a statewide constitutional amendment election.

Section 255.003 of the Election Code expressly provides that “an officer or employee of a political subdivision may not spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising.”  Political advertising is defined as “a communication that advocates a particular outcome in an election.”  The section does not prohibit a communication that factually describes the purposes of a measure if the communication does not advocate passage or defeat of the measure. 

For an example of a factual education piece on Proposition 6, the state water plan funding amendment, from the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, visit http://www.meadowscenter.txstate.edu/resources/news/prop6.html.

An officer or employee who violates Section 255.003 commits a Class A misdemeanor (one year in jail, up to a $4,000 fine, or both) and may be subject to civil penalties imposed by the Texas Ethics Commission. 

For detailed information on the prohibition, visit the Ethics Commission website at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/pamphlet/B09pad_pol.html.  Note that nothing prohibits an individual, on his or her own time and not using city resources, from advocating for a measure.

 

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League.

Back to Legislative Update Index