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Election information: Proposition 7

Oct. 15, 2013 at 5:15 a.m.


Editor's Note: The Advocate is offering information about the upcoming constitutional amendment election Nov. 5. This feature, provided by the League of Women Voters, will look at the pros and cons of each of the nine amendments on the ballot. This is a look at Proposition 7.

Official ballot language

The constitutional amendment authorizing a home rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less.

Explanation

Almost all Texas cities of more than 5,000 population have adopted a home rule or an independent city charter. A home rule city can pass any regulations or laws it deems necessary as long as they are consistent with the state constitution and statutes.

Section 11, Article XI of the Texas Constitution prohibits a city with terms of office between two and four years from filling vacancies by appointment. These cities must fill vacancies by majority vote during a special election held within 120 days after the start of the vacancy.

The proposed constitutional amendment and its enabling bill, HB 1372, would authorize a home rule city to provide in its charter a procedure other than a special election to fill a vacancy in its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less.

Arguments for

• Proposition 7 would cut taxpayer costs. When an elected city official passes away or otherwise leaves office, the Constitution requires the city to hold a special election within 120 days even if only a few months remain in the term. Taxpayers pay thousands of dollars to hold special elections only a few months before a regular election.

• This proposition would provide parity in election regulations. Vacancies for elected city officials with terms of office of less than two years can be filled by appointment. This proposition would allow vacancies to be filled by the same process for all elected officials. It would preserve democratic accountability because cities would have to hold elections as usual after the expiration of an appointed official's term.

Arguments against

• Proposition 7 might increase the opportunity for corruption by allowing city officials to appoint one another.

• Voting and elections are the best way to ensure democratic accountability. The cost of special elections is a small price to pay to ensure accountability.

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