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Senator Bettencourt passes bill to stop local governments from thwarting the will of its voters

SB 2035 prohibits a taxing entity from issuing public debt to finance a voter rejected project 

Austin – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) passed SB 2035 out of the Texas Senate on  Wednesday, April 26, 2023. SB 2035 protects the will of the voters by prohibiting a taxing entity from  issuing public debt to finance a voter rejected project within five years of a bond proposition’s rejection. “The City of Amarillo should never had gone behind their voters back to finance a project that  their voters overwhelmingly voted down. It’s an appalling example of an Elected City Council and  Mayor thwarting the will of the voters!” Stated Senator Bettencourt. 

In 2020, the City of Amarillo put a $275 million bond on the ballot to finance a convention center  expansion project. The bond was outright rejected, with more than 60 percent of voters against the  expansion project. Under current law, the City of Amarillo could have used the three-year moratorium for  bringing up the expansion bond again to alter their messaging to present a better case to voters. Instead,  in May of 2022, the City Council of Amarillo ignored the will of the voters and continued with the  expansion project by issuing a non-voter-approved $260 million in Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN). Typically, a TAN is short-term tool used as a bridge for funding. It was the largest TAN ever approved in  Texas history. For context, the second largest TAN was a $60 million TAN passed by the city of San  Antonio. Thankfully, a district judge halted the $260 million non-voter-approved debt after Mr. Alex Fairly,  a citizen of Amarillo, filed a lawsuit against the city. 

In response to the City of Amarillo’s attempt to bypass the will of its voters, Senator Bettencourt filed SB  2035, which passed the Texas Senate with bipartisan support 20-10. SB 2035 prohibits a taxing entity  from issuing Certificates of Obligation and TANs to finance a voter rejected project within five years of a  bond proposition’s rejection. Senator Kevin Sparks (R-Midland), the sitting Senator for Amarillo, showed  his support for SB 2035 saying, “Senate Bill 2035 puts Texas on a path of long-term sustainable  growth and restricts local entities from overriding the will of the voters. For those reasons, I was  proud to vote for this bill.” 

SB 2035 is waiting to be received by the Texas House where it will need to be passed and then signed by  the Governor before becoming law. “SB 2035 makes it clear: the will of the voters should never be ignored again!” Senator Bettencourt concluded.  


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