The Texas Supreme Court has again overruled Mayor Annise Parker’s administration in connection with the legal fight over her signature nondiscrimination ordinance, ruling Wednesday that the mayor and City Council erred in choosing the language that will appear on the November ballot when the ordinance faces possible repeal.
The justices, writing in “yet another mandamus proceeding concerning the City of Houston’s equal rights ordinance,” said the city charter is clear in requiring that voters be asked to vote for or against the ordinance. Parker had instead argued it was proper to vote for or against repealing the measure, and the council approved language with that approach Aug. 5.
“Though the ordinance is controversial, the law governing the City Council’s duties is clear. Our decision rests not on our views on the ordinance — a political issue the citizens of Houston must decide — but on the clear dictates of the City Charter,” the justices wrote. “The City Council must comply with its own laws regarding the handling of a referendum petition and any resulting election.”
The ruling rejected an argument from the ordinance’s foes that the ballot should not contain the words “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” which they said was politically charged.
Yeah, because nothing about this is politically charged. I don’t really get the fuss over this – voting to “keep” or “repeal” seems like two sides of the same coin to me, and if the petition is to repeal, then it’s logical that the vote should be to repeal – but if that’s the way it is then that’s the way it is. In the end, I doubt it makes that much difference, unless the number of easily confused people in this town is higher than I think it is.
By the way, on the matter of ballot language, I like the way the Press put it:
Frankly, we found Taylor’s language more confusing than the ballot wording, but the thing that really stuck out was Taylor’s other complaint — rejected by the court — that the language shouldn’t include the words “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.”
“It is simply a gratuitous, albeit intentional, insertion designed to give proponents an edge at the polls,” Taylor wrote, adding that the ordinance’s supporters wouldn’t want “Child Predator Protection Act” appearing on the ballot.
The difference, of course, is that only one of those is accurate nomenclature.
On a related matter, there’s still the Dave Wilson Potty Package Check Petitions, which one court ruled needed to be counted; the city has appealed that ruling to the First Court of Appeals. That was still being litigated as of yesterday, and I happen to have a copy of the city’s response to Wilson’s motion to have their appeal dismissed. To sum it up, the city is arguing that Wilson has cited no authority for his dismissal argument, and the trial court erred by granting Wilson temporary emergency relief without requiring him to prove a right to that extraordinary relief. As it happens, later in the day yesterday the appeals court denied Wilson’s motion to dismiss the city’s appeal, and gave the city ten days to “file a written response to this notice, providing a detailed explanation, citing relevant portions of the record, statutes, rules, and case law to show that this Court has jurisdiction over the appeal”. So we’ll still be arguing this at the end of the month, and that’s going to make it a very close call as to whether Wilson’s issue could get on the ballot, if the petitions were certified in the first place. Stay tuned.