Constitutional Amendment Propositions:
Prohibition on Using Public Funds to Advocate
As reported in a previous edition of the Legislative Update, six out of nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on the November 5 ballot directly affect Texas cities. While city officials may believe that some or all of the amendments are important, state law prohibits a city from spending public funds to support or oppose any election measure, including a statewide constitutional amendment election.
Section 255.003 of the Election Code expressly provides that “an officer or employee of a political subdivision may not spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising.” Political advertising is defined as “a communication that advocates a particular outcome in an election.” The section does not prohibit a communication that factually describes the purposes of a measure if the communication does not advocate passage or defeat of the measure.
For an example of a factual education piece on Proposition 6, the state water plan funding amendment, from the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, visit http://www.meadowscenter.txstate.edu/resources/news/prop6.html.
An officer or employee who violates Section 255.003 commits a Class A misdemeanor (one year in jail, up to a $4,000 fine, or both) and may be subject to civil penalties imposed by the Texas Ethics Commission.
For detailed information on the prohibition, visit the Ethics Commission website at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/pamphlet/B09pad_pol.html. Note that nothing prohibits an individual, on his or her own time and not using city resources, from advocating for a measure.