Forced annexation refers to a process in which certain municipalities in Texas located outside the most-populous counties can add unincorporated areas to the municipality without the consent of the residents of those areas. The prospect of forced annexation is concerning to property owners because it can subject them to higher taxes and additional regulation even though they never voted for either. Unfortunately, forced annexation can operate as the reverse of property owners “voting with their feet” and moving to lower-tax locations; municipalities essentially move their boundaries to grow their tax base.
House Bill 347 builds upon annexation reform efforts in prior legislative sessions and ends the practice of forced annexation, thereby protecting the rights of property owners in smaller counties to the same extent of those of property owners in larger counties. The bill puts an end to what is functionally taxation without representation.
Local governments in recent years have also become more aggressive with respect to preventing home and property owners from using their property as they see fit. One method of doing so is by designating the property as a historic landmark.
House Bill 2496 addresses this issue by prohibiting municipalities from designating certain locations as historical landmarks unless the property owner consents to the designation or the designation was approved by a three-fourths supermajority vote of the governing body of the municipality and a three-fourths supermajority vote of the zoning, planning, or historical commission of the municipality, if any exists.