Take 5

Texas Supreme Court Rules on State Law Preemption in City Charter Amendment Case

In a case concerning state law preemption, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that a city charter amendment imposing a higher vote threshold for adoption cannot defeat another city charter amendment that won a majority of votes at the same election. The case, Hotze v. Turner, centered around two proposed amendments to the City of Houston’s charter. Proposition 2, submitted by a group of citizens, would impose a strict voter-approval requirement before the city could increase tax revenues. The Houston City Council responded with its own proposed amendment, Proposition 1, which included a primacy clause that would require Proposition 1 to prevail over another majority-winning amendment “relating to limitations on increases in City revenues” if Proposition 1 passed with a higher number of votes.

A majority of voters approved both propositions at the same election, but Proposition 1 earned more votes than Proposition 2. The City declined to comply with Proposition 2, citing Proposition 1’s primacy clause and the City Charter’s reconciliation provision. Bruce Hotze sued for enforcement, arguing that the primacy clause and the reconciliation provision violated state law.

The Texas Supreme Court held that the primacy clause improperly imposed a higher vote threshold than state law permits and that the City had no discretion to refuse to enforce a charter amendment after its approval and adoption. However, the Court noted that state law does not address the unusual situation in which conflicting amendments pass simultaneously, and remanded the case to the trial court to consider whether the City Charter’s reconciliation provision governs the two amendments.

The ruling has implications for cities in Texas that may be considering proposed charter amendments and underscores the importance of ensuring that any proposed amendments comply with state law. The Court’s decision clarifies the role of state law in preempting conflicting provisions in city charters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *