A NEW STRATEGY ON ATTACKING MUNICIPAL ANNEXATION AUTHORITY: DIVIDE AND CONQUER?
A local annexation with statewide ramifications. That’s what one city’s annexation process has become. The City of College Station has been in the process of annexing an area in its extraterritorial jurisdiction for the last year. The citizens of the area have unsuccessfully attempted a charter-based referendum and sued the city to stop it from annexing. (The courts concluded that the lawsuit had no merit and that the city can move forward.)
But that’s not the end of the story. State Representative Fred Brown (R- Bryan) introduced legislation that would stop the city in its tracks. His bill, H.B. 107, would prohibit the cities of Bryan and College Station from annexing an area with 50 or more inhabitants unless the persons to be annexed approve the annexation through a popular vote. The bill would, in effect, end the ability of those cities to annex populated areas.
While the bill is bracketed to two cities, the League strongly opposes it. That’s because, rather than applying the consistent and reasonable annexation process in current law, the bill sets a dangerous precedent. State legislators routinely inserting themselves into the local annexation process could lead to a slippery slope on which annexations may eventually become impossible.
Why is annexation authority so important? In Texas, unlike most other states, cities (city taxpayers) pay for a wide array of services and facilities that benefit entire regions of the state and the state as a whole. Those on the outskirts take advantage of those services, but don’t help support them. Most states assist their cities with financial aid in making these expenditures. In lieu of state aid, Texas law allows cities to annex territory to support the financial well-being of the state.
That’s why the League testified on H.B. 107, a “bracketed bill.” Limiting annexation authority is bad for the economy of individual cities, entire regions, and the state as a whole. To view the League’s brief testimony in the House Committee on Land and Resource Management on March 22, go to http://www.wwwebinars.com/LUVideo3-22/LUVideo2.swf.
According to Rep. Brown, “The Texas Municipal League is very powerful in the state and they fight hard to make sure that cities can go out and annex whoever they want to without the permission of the local residents...this is why we made it only for Brazos County...so that we would have a much better chance of getting it passed in the legislation [sic].”
If legislators believe that the League will always leave bracketed bills relating to annexation alone, they are incorrect. The fact that the City of College Station has provided for ample public input and has followed the law relating to annexation is important, but not the main issue. The main issue is that broad limitations on annexation have failed to pass, and Texas cities must stand together to oppose bracketed bills because they may become the preferred method of challenging annexations.