In 2019, the Texas Legislature made a huge change when it passed HB 347, a bill eliminating forced annexation in Texas. While this was a big win for Texans, there remains more work to do. We must now turn our attention to extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJs).

ETJs are the buffer zone surrounding a city’s corporate boundaries and can range from one-half to five miles wide around a city. Unfortunately, under current law, cities may impose their rules and regulations on residents of an ETJ—even though they do not live within city limits. The cherry on top? ETJ residents may be forced to comply with city regulations, but they have no voice or vote in the elections or rule-making processes that make those decisions.

While ETJs may provide access to some services that would otherwise be difficult to obtain, that is not always the case. The basic nature of ETJs can leave residents with more rules and no voice, with no end in sight.

This idea was characterized by Shelby Sterling’s testimony on Interim Charge 1 for the House Committee on  Land and Resource Management, “cities can impose fines and fees on ETJ residents even when the area has been disannexed or voters rejected an attempt at annexation through election as required by state law.”

The citizens of ETJs are being taxed without having any representation in the respective city’s government. The unavoidable resilience of city authority over ETJs has recently bled into the abuse of water quality regulations.

Last month, TPPF’s Shelby Sterling testified in support of HB 2573, authored by State Rep. Edmund Kuempel, before the House Committee on Land and Resource Management. This bill seeks to put a cork in the overreach of local governance in imposing water quality regulations that are more stringent than the established minimum state and federal requirements.

City authority over ETJs is rife with exploitation and we must close the loophole of water quality regulation is a step towards much needed ETJ reform. Eliminating each additional regulation and fee in ETJs is a step in the right direction. No one deserves to be taxed without proper representation, but unfortunately, many residing in ETJs are. HB 2573 helps take us one step closer to freedom and prosperity for all Texas residents.