Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature passed a new law (Senate Bill 2038) giving residents trapped in the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) “an exit strategy through either a petition or election process.” The law originated, in part, from concerns that “residents and property owners [were] subject to the regulatory authority of municipalities in the extraterritorial jurisdiction” despite not having the ability to participate in city elections.
In other words, lawmakers didn’t want Texans to be governed by people they didn’t elect and who they don’t have the ability to vote out. And so, SB 2038 was proposed and passed.
But city government central planners aren’t willing to let go of their unconstitutional authority that easily.
A few weeks ago, the city of Grand Prairie filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas alleging that SB 2038 is unconstitutional and should be undone. More specifically, Grand Prairie officials hold that:
“…SB 2038, effect September 1, 2023, allows individuals to ‘opt out’ of a city’s ETJ with no notice to nearby property owners, no oversight by any branch of government, and without the requisite legislative consent of the governing body.”
Oddly, while the city expresses concern here with a purported lack of notification, oversight, and consent, it vocalized nothing similar when property rights advocates fought against involuntary annexation and, in fact, Grand Prairie even lobbied to keep the practice. Prior to 2019, involuntary annexation was a system of capture used by cities for revenue purposes until the Legislature brought a halt to it. The practice was a key justification for the creation of the ETJ concept.
Whatever the case, another city has just sided with Grand Prairie. Last week, the city of Lockhart announced that it was joining the lawsuit, arguing that: “as a growing community, Lockhart desires to promote orderly development in its ETJ, and SB 2038 unconstitutionally hampers its ability to plan for that inevitable growth.” Apparently, in the city’s view, planning trumps liberty.
Whether a court is convinced by these arguments is yet to be seen; but one thing is clear: City government central planners won’t let go, even though policy and probity dictate they should.