Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office is urging the Texas Supreme Court to side with opponents of a proposed charter amendment that seeks to decriminalize marijuana and abortion, as well as enact a host of other police reforms.
Solicitor General Judd Stone submitted a letter to the court Wednesday calling the proposal a “grab-bag of provisions” that “flagrantly violates” a state law prohibiting multi-subject charter amendments.
Stone urged the court to grant a petition filed by the anti-abortion group Texas Alliance for Life Inc. (TAL) requesting that the city reject the proposed ballot language, and instead require a vote on each provision individually.
“While the substance of this proposed charter amendment conflicts with multiple substantive provisions of state law, this mandamus proceeding concerns a procedural problem: the charter amendment plainly violates Texas law’s longstanding prohibition on municipal charter amendments that ‘contain more than one subject,'” Stone wrote.
In addition to abortion and marijuana decriminalization, the proposed Justice Charter seeks to ban police from using no-knock warrants and chokeholds, as well as expand the city’s cite-and-release policy for low-level, nonviolent crimes. ACT 4 SA and other progressive groups submitted 38,000 petition signatures to the city clerk last month requesting that it be included on the May ballot.
City Council plans to vote Thursday to approve the amendment proposal for the May election, a move that must happen by Friday in order for it to be included on the ballot.
City Attorney Andy Segovia told reporters last week he believed most of the charter amendments’ provisions were at odds with state law and therefore unenforceable by the city even if they’re approved by voters.
Stone’s letter agreed with that assessment and accused San Antonio officials of “abuse[ing] their discretion by certifying and including this charter amendment on the ballot.”
In a written response to TAL’s petition Tuesday, Segovia defended his decision to place the amendment on the ballot as written because city officials “plausibly read the proposed charter amendment language to encompass only ‘one subject’ as required by statute.”
Segovia added that opponents should challenge the validity of the amendment after the election, not before.
Stone’s letter disagreed, and asked the Texas Supreme Court to take swift action against the proposal in its entirety. He suggesting the court has long favored stopping such charter amendments before they’re voted on, something that’s still possible if it can prevent San Antonio from including it on the ballot this week.
“When there is an opportunity to correct a ballot before the election, waiting to address the issue through a post-election contest and, potentially another election, is not an adequate remedy,” Stone wrote. “Because respondents can correct the ballot now, [TAL’s] mandamus is appropriate.”