Wentworth Attacks Texans' petitioning rights-action requested!

[Sent to the Independent Texans mailling list. --MJ]

Dear Friends & Members:

Anti-petition bill -- set for a hearing THIS WEDNESDAY 9:30 am --
to more than double petition signatures for citizen's charter  
amendments.  (Details below.)

        State Senator Jeff Wentworth is sponsoring SB 690 (details below) at  
the request of the Austin Chamber of Commerce to raise the signatures  
from 5 to 10% of registered voters and to remove the 20,000 signature  

        Call Senator Wentworth's office (512) 463-0125.  Ask Sen. Wentworth  
to pull SB 690 down.  The bill is now in the Intergovernmental  
Government Relations Committee chaired by Senator Royce West.  The  
Vice Chair is Senator Robert Nichols.  Also on the committee is  
Senator Dan Patrick and Senator Mario Gallegos.  Details here.  
Regardless of where you live, please call Wentworth's office, but  
make sure if you live in the district of these other Senators call them!

        Call their offices and politely request they kill this bad bill.  Be  
sure to read the details below my signature before you call.

        If you can get to Austin, join us this Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the  
Capital -- in the underground extension, Room E 1.028 for a hearing  
on SB 690.

Independently yours,

Linda Curtis
Independent Texans
PO Box 14294
Austin, TX 78761
512-535-0989 home office
512-383-8484 Austin office
512-657-2089 cell

Here's the actual bill language.

A quick political history.  The Austin Chamber of Commerce has been  
pushing this bill, we believe as their response to Prop 2, even  
though Prop 2 failed!  In 2007 Senator Kirk Watson carried this bill  
(minus an amendment in this year's bill that exempts police and  
fire).  The requirements currently for citizen's charter amendment  
petitioning is 5% of registered voters, with a 20,000 signature cap.  
Wentworth's SB 690 would raise the signatures to 10% and remove the  
20,000 cap.  The law already requires 10% for citizen's municipal  
initiatives, referenda and recall petitions.  (Remember, Texans only  
have I&R&R at the city level).  The reason you don't see more  
referenda and initiatives is because petitioning requirements make  
them near impossible and WAY too expensive.  If anything, they should  
lower those requirements.  Bottom line -- if it ain't broke, don't  
fix it.  How many charter amendments have we seen in the last 10  
years in Austin?  Four.  How many have passed?  None!  But that  
hasn't stopped the Chamber from trying to snuff out any opposition to  
their developer scams on Austin taxpayers.  Defeat SB 690!  If you're  
a member of the Chamber -- let 'em have an earful, cancel your  
membership and tell them you're sending your dues for  
ChangeAustin.org, who will keep fighting for voters and local business.

Update: Texas Senate Bill 690

[Indyfriends] URGENT:  do this NOW, today or tomorrow!
From: Linda Curtis

Dear Friends & Members:

        I know you cherish ordinary citizens being able to get signatures to  
call for a public vote on controversial issues in your city, no  
matter where you live in Texas. Therefore, please call Senator Royce  
West's office in Austin and ask him to oppose Senate Bill 690!  
(Details below)

        Call this number right away:  512-463-2527.

Note:  It does not matter whether you live in his district, as  
Senator West is the chair of the Intergovernmental Relations  
Committee in the Texas Senate.  His committee will be hearing Senate  
Bill 690 on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. (Underground Extension,  
Rm. E 1.028.)

        Call his office now, please!  Come on Wednesday too if at all possible.

Linda Curtis
Independent Texans
PO Box 14294
Austin, TX 78761
512-535-0989 home office
512-383-8484 Austin office
512-657-2089 cell

Oppose SB 690

This bill would stifle public participation when the public is more  
excited than ever about engaging in the political process.

SB 690 would increase the number of signatures citizens would be  
required to gather to place a charter amendment on the local ballot  
in home rule cities – from 5% to 10%.

Problem:  This bill is anti-democratic. More people than ever before  
are actively engaging in our democratic process in Texas at the  
local, state and national level.  This bill would reverse that trend  
and ensure that the hurdle is too high for citizens to be able to  
place an item on the local ballot in home rule cities.

·      The current 5% requirement is not too low.  Many groups fail  
to collect enough signatures because private property owners refuse  
to allow petition gatherers on their property and public property  
managers relegate signature gatherers to parts of the property where  
there is no pedestrian traffic.

·      The current system does not result in costly special elections  
because, if successful, the new ballot item is placed on the ballot  
in the next regularly scheduled election.

·      Popular local ballot initiatives in Texas have included local  
anti-smoking laws and campaign finance limits.  Even when citizen-led  
initiatives fail at the ballot box, they benefit the public by  
highlighting important issues and often result in new local policies.

The City of Austin’s manual for petition review states that the 10%  
requirement that exists today for some initiatives is virtually  
impossible to meet: "… it would be difficult for citizens to get  
enough signatures prior to the effective date of an ordinance to  
qualify for a referendum.  Therefore, it is unlikely [the office of  
the city clerk] will ever receive a referendum petition.”

It shouldn’t be more difficult to get on a local ballot than a  
statewide or federal ballot in Texas:

·      It only takes 500 signatures for a person in Texas to get on  
the ballot to run for Congress.

·      It only takes 1% of the presidential voters in Texas to get  
statewide ballot access for an independent candidate (about 60,000  

·      It only takes 1% of the gubernatorial voters in Texas for a  
new political party to get ballot access (about 45,000 signatures).

Please protect Texans’ right to participate in the democratic  
process.  Vote “NO” on SB 690.

For more information contact: Linda Curtis, 512-535-0989

Last updated:  March 10, 2009

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