Groups that are rarely seen together in the same room, much less on the same side of legislation, are coalescing to kill House Bill 2595. HB 2595, the “anti-petition” bill, has already passed the Texas House. HB 2595 will be heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday, May 19th (hearing begins at 9 am in E1.012. According to opponents, HB 2595 would “shatter Texans’ most fundamental local control — the right to petition for a public vote.”
HB 2595 passed the House on Second Reading on May 8th with no discussion after the author, Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Granbury) referenced citizen petitions as “mob mentality”. The bill was passed on a Third Reading with a record vote of 105 Yes and 29 Nays.
Linda Curtis of the League of Independent Voters of Texas has been reaching out to groups across the state and across the political spectrum. Curtis said, “Frankly, the bill passed the House because we were all working on other bills. Most of us thought it was a fracking bill and that issue had already been resolved in HB 40. Now that everyone knows what this bill will do, we’re coming together, despite the fact that we agree on little else.”
Travis County Republican Party local issues spokesman, Roger Borgelt, who will be testifying against HB 2595 said, “The Travis County Republican Party believes that the public petition process is often the only tool available to aggrieved citizens when their elected representatives are not responsive to taxpayer concerns. This bill effectively guts the ability to have that check on local governments by denying its use any time use of private property might be affected, which would include any taxpayer funded local government purchasing or funding initiative.”
Other organizations have grave concerns about HB 2595 from a different viewpoint. “Texas Campaign for the Environment strongly believes in the right to petition our local government and HB 2595 would give local government staff too much power over our petition rights. HB 2595 would destroy a tool that Texans have used to protect our water, land and air from pollution,” explained Executive Director Robin Schneider, who will also speak at the Committee hearing.
Reaction against HB 2595 is coming from various parts of Texas. Helwig Van Der Grinten, Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras said, “HB 2595 will allow local jurisdictions to summarily reject with impunity, at no cost, similar petitions.”
Craig Cosney, President of the Highland Lakes Tea Party, in a letter to the committee hearing the bill, said, “What this country needs is more citizen input into governmental activities not less. Certainly the people who were wise enough to elect you are wise enough to petition their local governments.”
Linda Thompson of the Sam Houston Tea Party, said, “Texans must retain the ability to rein in unresponsive home rule cities through the right to petition for a public vote. Sam Houston Tea Party, Huntsville supports citizen petition rights and stands in opposition to House Bill 2595.”
Terri Hall of Texas TURF said, “The voters of San Anotnio successfully amended the city charter to require a vote on street cars/light rail that threatened to use millions in state road funds for a transit project. The voters in Arlington successfully petitioned their government to remove red light cameras. Local petition drives have been wildly successful, and HB 2595 is trying to squelch that voice of the voters. We strongly oppose HB 2595.”
San Antonio conservative media host and former San Antonio Tea Party Chair, George Rodriguez, said he opposes HB 2595 because, “In my 30 years of intergovernmental work, I have often seen cities (dominated by special interests) push their projects in spite of popular local opposition. Special interests dominate and influence local governments, and individual citizens are usually left to pay the bills for public subsidized projects with little recourse.”
Texas political activists from all sides of the aisle are expected to testify and sign in against HB 2595, including the League of Women Voters of Texas, Libertarian Party of Texas, Save Our Springs Alliance, the Texas League of Conservation Voters and many more.