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.