Let My People Go: Petitions to End ETJ Powers

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In April, TPPF’s James Quintero testified before the Senate Committee on Local Government in support of Senate Bill 1992, a bill to allow residents and property owners in an extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) to use petition and election procedures to remove themselves from the area after one year if they have not been annexed. The bill is currently pending in committee.

Below are Quintero’s prepared remarks delivered orally to the committee.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee—

My name is James Quintero and I represent the Texas Public Policy Foundation. I’m here today to testify in support of Senate Bill 1992.

Under current law, residents and property owners in the ETJ are subject to a form of regulation without representation, as they’re governed by city leaders they did not elect and required to follow rules they did not consent to.

Most distressing of all, the status quo creates the possibility of ETJ residents existing in this state of limbo in perpetuity. That’s because there is no current requirement to allow ETJ residents to extricate themselves from the city’s shadow. Ever.

Now, one might argue that those residents could find relief by incorporating their own community in the ETJ. But even under that scenario, residents do not have the power of self-determination. Instead, Chapter 42 of the Local Government Code requires that “the governing body of the existing municipality give its written consent by ordinance or resolution.” In other words, this option is analogous to the fox is guarding the henhouse.

Texans deserve better. We need laws that protect ETJ residents’ right to participate in the democratic process; that respect property rights; and that more closely align with the republican form of government ideal spelled out in the Texas and U.S. Constitutions.[1]

Senate Bill 1992 upholds those principles and moves us in a better direction by providing ETJ inhabitants with an avenue of escape after a reasonable period and upon winning an election.

A tool like the one proposed embodies the truest sense of local control as it empowers the individual to exercise self-governance in far greater measure. It trusts voters to make the right call and it levels the playing field.

So on behalf of those enduring regulation without representation right now, I urge the committee to look favorably on SB 1992.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to answering any questions that you may have.

[1] “All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.”