This commentary originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on June 30, 2015.

Texans’ property rights have not been secure for a long, long time. For over 100 years, forced annexation has allowed Texas cities to go out and pull county residents into their limits without a vote or any kind of consent.

Currently, San Antonio is in the process of annexing massive areas that will add 66 square miles to the city. Well over 100,000 people will be forced to pay much higher property taxes and fall under stricter laws and regulations. All of this in spite of the fact that they chose to live outside San Antonio and will not get a vote during any part of the annexation process.

How can a state that prides itself on limited government and conservative policy allow cities to get away with treating residents of unincorporated areas like subjects? Americans have a fundamental right to determine which government they want to live under, and if you choose to live outside of a city, you shouldn’t be pulled in against your consent. This is detailed in a new Texas Public Policy Foundation study, “Ending Forced Annexation in Texas.”

Thankfully, a growing number of legislators agree. With constituents clamoring for reform, both the Texas House and Senate introduced historic annexation reform during the 84th Legislature that would have given citizens being annexed a right to vote in the process.

House Bill 2221 and its companion, Senate Bill 1639, were perhaps the most fundamental annexation reform bills since the passage of the Home Rule Act in 1912, which allowed forced annexation in the first place. While HB 2221 died on a point of order on the House floor, SB 1639 made it out of the Senate at the last minute.

The bills were common-sense property rights protection: If an area of more than 200 residents was being annexed, a city needed to hold an election of those residents asking for approval of the annexation. If less than 200, the city needed to get a petition signed by a majority of the voters.

The bills would have cut out the bureaucratic and long-winded processes of the current two-year annexation process by allowing even a very large annexation to take place within only a few short months – as long as the people being annexed agreed.

City officials and planners believe such citizens should not have the right to vote. As do the interest groups that represent cities. Some essentially believe that Texans don’t have property rights.

Try telling that to the thousands of Bexar County residents outside of San Antonio now being forced into a city they did not want to live in. Or to the residents of Kingwood, which Houston forcefully annexed in the 1990s. Or residents affected by the numerous, smaller, less-covered annexations that disregard Texans’ property rights around the state on a regular basis.

Annexing anyone against their will disparages their fundamental rights to life, liberty and property. Isn’t the purpose of government to protect these rights, not trample on them?

If Texas is to continue leading the way on limited government policies, forced annexation must come to an end.

For the ultimate form of local control is in deferring to the rights of individuals citizens. And that means, at least, giving them a vote on annexation.

Fields is a senior policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and a former College Station City Council member.