Prop 7 Would Change Referendum Process
KUT News is taking a look at each of the several propositions to amend the city charter coming up on the November ballot. This post covers Proposition 7, which would change the number of signatures needed to get a proposition on the ballot.
If a community member or a citizen group wants to put a measure on the Austin ballot, they can do it through the city’s referendum process.
Currently the city charter requires 10 percent of qualified voters to sign a referendum or ordinance in order to get it on the ballot. Changing the city charter itself requires only half those signatures.
Roger Borgelt is with the Travis County Republican Party. They endorse Proposition 7. He says hardly anyone uses the referendum process because it’s the more difficult option.
“It’s easier to change the charter, which is the constitution for the city, than it is to just pass a new ordinance or a new law,” Borgelt said. “It would be as if it was easier to amend the United States Constitution than it is to pass federal law. It’s sort of backwards.”
Borgelt says Austinites shouldn’t have to change the city charter every time they want to change the law, but should do so with ordinances. And that the 5 percent threshold for amending the charter is hard enough to meet. So why not have the same standard for referenda?
Bill Bunch is with Save Our Springs Alliance. He is also in favor of Proposition 7, but says there is a possibility that it wouldn’t stand the test of time. The proposition allows for the referendum requirements to track state law. So if the state requirements are amended to become more demanding, city requirements would follow suit.
“There is a concern in part that it sort of invites the state legislature to meddle in local affairs,” Bunch said.
Bunch says state law would always trump local standards.