Katy state representative: ETJ bill could affect 1.8 million Houston residents

Several local state representatives are working to push similar bills during the next legislative session in January 2019 that could potentially affect hundreds of thousands of Greater Houston-area residents.

One piece of legislation Fort Bend County Commissioner Andy Meyers has backed would allow residents living in Houston’s extraterritorial jurisdiction—an unincorporated area of land beyond a city’s limits—and unincorporated Fort Bend County to vote themselves out of the area and be annexed into an adjoining city like Katy, stay wholly unincorporated or create a new city.

Meyers said the bill he is working on with state Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, who has agreed to sponsor the bill in the next session, is a locally focused bill that would affect only Fort Bend County residents.

According to Meyers, large cities like Houston with an ETJ that extends far into neighboring suburbs have regulatory power and can impose taxes there, yet those residents have no say in city government. They cannot vote for the Houston mayor or City Council members.

“You are taking away their voice from the standpoint that their elected body [Fort Bend County Commissioners Court] can be overruled by an unelected body [the city of Houston],” Meyers said. “That’s un-American, un-Texan; it’s just not right.”

Meyers said the taxes that are imposed on these areas translate to sales taxes from retail establishments that are possible through limited purpose annexations. According to the Texas Local Government Code, a limited purpose annexation occurs when a city extends regulations in regard to land development and in exchange provides limited services and collects sales tax. Local state representatives said this can be seen with LaCenterra in Katy—sales tax from the businesses there go to the city of Houston, not Katy.

“In addition to levying a tax on the retail establishments, they could actually levy a tax on the resident’s phone bill, their internet connection, DirecTV, their internet purchases,” Meyers said.

Meyers said the question raised of whether this issue is the same as the idea of no taxation without representation is his whole issue and why he wants the bill to be passed.

“The assumption [of no taxation without representation] is that the only taxes that are going to be levied would be levied by an entity that is subject to the vote of the resident voters,” Meyers said. “But, [the city of Houston] kind of gets around it by allowing these strategic partnership agreements and allowing the cities to quote ‘exercise their limited authority in an unincorporated area.’”

State Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, is also working on his own ETJ bill that would achieve a similar outcome to the Fort Bend County-focused bill but would affect residents living in unincorporated Harris County and Houston’s ETJ.

“All it does is say that if an area that is in the ETJ of a big city has another city closer to it that is willing to adopt it and annex it, that the bigger city lets the area go so that it could become part of a city,” Schofield said.

Schofield said Katy is a perfect example for this legislation to help residents since some residents who reside in Houston’s ETJ and unincorporated Harris County with a Katy address can be denied access to city services.

“The city’s reach shouldn’t exceed their grasp,” Schofield said. They exist to serve their residents, not to get money from people farther and farther away from the city who will never benefit from the city services.”

Schofield said his bill would apply to Houston by referring to it as the “releasing municipality, defined as a municipality with a population of 1.8 million or more.” This means if passed, Schofield’s bill could affect up to 2 million people within Houston’s far-reaching ETJ.

“But that’s just in the bill,” Schofield said. “[Another state representative gets in the bill] and somebody could take that out and say, ‘This should apply to everybody [statewide].’”

Officials from the Texas Municipal League said it could not comment on pending legislation regarding TML member cities. Officials from the city of Houston’s Planning and Development Department also declined to comment. Officials from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s office also declined to comment.

Redefining city limits


Schofield said he is working on a second bill that challenges the current status quo of how far a city’s ETJ can extend. Current state law allows cities to extend its city limits 5 miles out at a time from its boundaries.

Schofield’s bill would challenge this by requiring cities to measure their limits from where they actually provide services, not from where the boundaries extend. Houston’s city limits extend down to the Barker Reservoir in Katy, but the closest area where services are provided is on the east side of Hwy. 6, Meyers said.

“At some point we have to say that the city is big enough,” Schofield said.

Schofield said he plans on speaking with Miller and Meyers to discuss combining bills.

“Sometimes it’s good to have two versions of similar bills so that if one doesn’t get up the hill the other one can, other times it’s better to just have one bullet, and we will work that out and see what is best for the property owners of Texas,” he said.


MOST RECENT

As variants are isolated and identified, Houston Methodist's Dr. Ian Glass believes the vaccines available can handle identified variants (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
'The vaccines we have are effective against all the variants out there': Houston Methodist's Dr. Ian Glass discusses variants, vaccinations

As Houston Methodist identified its first case of the lambda variant July 19, Dr. Glass believes vaccines can handle known variants.

Peter Lake (left), chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Brad Jones, interim president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, provided an update on state regulators' electric grid redesign efforts in Austin on July 22. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Regulators: Texas electric grid prepared for potentially record-breaking demand next week; 'once-in-a-generation reforms' underway

The heads of the agencies in charge of the Texas electric grid met in Austin on July 22 to provide updates on their grid reform efforts.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is pleading with residents to be more vigilant, asking all residents to start wearing masks again in indoor settings and asking those who are vaccinated to urge their friends who are not to get the shot. (Screenshot Courtesy Facebook)
Harris County raises coronavirus threat level as Hidalgo asks all residents to mask up indoors

Although those who are vaccinated are very unlikely to end up in the hospital, officials said wearing masks in certain situations could help reduce transmissions to the more susceptible unvaccinated.

The community features a 12-acre farm with an orchard, a greenhouse, homes for goats and chickens, seasonal produce sold on-site each Saturday and a vineyard managed by Messina Hof. (Courtesy Harvest Green)
Texas Association of Builders dubs Harvest Green as Best Overall Community

In addition to being named Best Overall Community More than 600 Acres, Harvest Green was a finalist in the Best Community Amenity, Best Community Clubhouse and Best Website categories.

Memorial Hermann has locations throughout the Greater Houston area, including Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center. (Courtesy Memorial Hermann)
Memorial Hermann visiting policies change as COVID-19 cases rise

As of July 21, Memorial Hermann has changed its visitor policy in light of a recent increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Greater Houston area.

Houston unemployment is above state and national levels, while home sales in the region continue to be strong, according to a July 21 economic update from the Greater Houston Partnership. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Unemployment, strong housing sales mark 2021 Houston economy, Greater Houston Partnership says

While Houston job recovery lags due to the pandemic, area home sales are strong, according to the Greater Houston Partnership.

The Katy Ranch Crossing location, which will feature an all-new look, is looking for up to 100 team members to employ—including cooks, dishwashers, servers, hosts and bartenders. (Courtesy Old Chicago)
Old Chicago restaurant to reopen Katy Ranch Crossing location

The restaurant was previously a tenant at the same location before shutting its doors in 2020.

In a late-night amendment addition, Harris County Commissioners Court denied an original resolution aiming to increase restrictions on nonmonetary pretrial release bonds in a split vote after hearing over two hours of public testimony July 20 for and against the resolution. The amended resolution, which was approved in a second split vote, favors focusing on criminal court backlogs and funding alternative public safety solutions. (Courtesy Pexels)
After hours of debate, Harris County commissioners oppose resolution restricting felony nonmonetary pretrial release bonds

In a late-night amendment addition, Harris County Commissioners Court denied an original resolution aiming to increase restrictions on non-monetary pretrial release bonds in a split vote after hearing over two hours of public testimony July 20 for and against the resolution.

The restaurant serves a variety of Indian appetizers, entrees and sweets. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
A1 Choice Indian Cuisine opens in Cy-Fair; Torchy's Richmond taco shop coming this week and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area, including a Ross Dress For Less store opening in Cy-Fair.

With cases, testing positivity and hospitalizations on the rise, health care experts say a fourth wave of the coronavirus is starting in Houston. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
The fourth wave: Medical Center officials talk masks, vaccines as delta variant cases pick up

The key difference between this wave and those that preceded it is who is at risk, experts say, citing data showing almost all new coronavirus deaths are affecting the unvaccinated.

The restaurant held a soft family and friends opening earlier this week. (Photo by Laura Aebi/Community Impact Newspaper)
Torchy's to open new Richmond location this week

The restaurant, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, is known for its unique tacos, spicy queso, daily drink specials and Lil' Nookies.