Johnson County is on track to become the third Texas county that will vote in November to stop forced annexation within its borders, thanks to a team of local activists.
Citizens turned in their petition last week — making Johnson the third county, behind Parker and Wise, to complete an “opt-in” petition under the state’s limited municipal annexation reform law enacted in last year’s special legislative session.
The new law, Senate Bill 6, restricts forced annexation in the state’s largest counties, those with 500,000 or more residents — what the bill calls “Tier 2” status. Unincorporated property owners in all other Texas counties, including Johnson, can still be annexed without their consent, unless residents vote to change their county to protected Tier 2 status.
State Rep. Phil King (R–Weatherford), who represents Parker and Wise counties, added the provision to the law that lets residents of smaller “Tier 1” counties petition for a vote to adopt the law’s protections. If 10 percent of registered voters in a county sign a petition, a Tier 2 opt-in measure is placed on the ballot for a countywide vote.
Volunteers organized under the banner Stop Forced Annexation in Johnson County spent the past six months collecting petition signatures from registered voters across the county. On June 5, they submitted over 12,000 signatures to the Johnson County Elections Office for verification — well over the 8,905 signatures they needed to get an opt-in measure on the November ballot.
Once the petition is certified, election officials will hand it over to the county commissioners court, which will order a November election on the measure.
Petition drive organizer Paul Jones said he is confident they have more than enough valid signatures.
Paul and his wife Peggie got involved in the fight against forced annexation last year, when the City of Joshua targeted their property for annexation. Just one day before they submitted their petition to the county, Joshua City Council unanimously voted to forcibly annex unincorporated land in its extraterritorial jurisdiction into the city — including the Joneses’ property.
Residents like the Joneses who were annexed into Joshua are still considering their options for dealing with the city. For now, Paul, Peggie, and the rest of the Stop Forced Annexation team are taking a brief break. Then they’ll focus on getting Johnson County voters to the polls in November to vote for the ballot measure. Activists in Parker and Wise counties are doing the same.
Parker County’s opt-in election has been set since April; residents there were the first in the state to successfully complete the petition process and get a forced annexation ban on the ballot. Wise County commissioners confirmed Monday that an opt-in measure will be on their November ballot as well. It will then be up to voters to stop forced annexation in Parker, Wise, and Johnson counties.
Regardless of the outcome in November, Jones says he and his fellow activists “will be fighting to get this law changed for the entire state so other counties don’t have to go through this arduous petition process.”