(Austin, TX) –  The Texas House of Representatives passed HB 347 Tuesday, sending the legislation over to the state Senate for its consideration. Filed by state Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford), HB 347 would eliminate the “tiered” annexation system for Texas counties and make all counties equal for purposes of municipal annexation law.

State Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie) co-authored HB 347 and voted for its passage. The bill saw strong bipartisan support in the House, with 133 members voting in favor of the legislation.

“Legislating takes teamwork and I am happy to support a great bill by my colleague, Rep. King,” Wray said. “Annexation is a major topic in Ellis County and this bill directly addresses that.”

Currently, counties are divided into “tier 1” and “tier 2” status. Tier 2 counties (over 500,000 in population) require an election before a municipality can annex an unincorporated area. Tier 1 counties (under 500,000) do not, unless the county holds an election to move to tier 2.

HB 347 would make all counties in Texas the same for purposes of annexation. The effect would be that, before a municipality in Texas can annex an area, it must hold an election and the area to be annexed is given the opportunity to choose whether or not to be annexed.

“The bill gives those living in the county a say in what taxes they are willing to pay, what land use restrictions they are willing to live under and what government is going to be over them,” Wray said. “These are the choices they made when the decided to live there and this bill will make sure that their choice is respected.”

Under the current law, a tier 1 county may hold an election to change to tier 2 status. Ellis County plans to hold an election for this purpose May 4.

“It is still very important that the citizens in Ellis County head to the polls and cast their vote,” Wray said. “While HB 347 has cleared a major hurdle, anything can happen in the legislative session, and it would be disastrous if folks skipped the election, and something happened that HB 347 didn’t pass. So, it is important that their voice is heard on May 4.”

HB 347 now heads to the Texas Senate. Upon passing the upper chamber, it will be sent to the governor’s desk for a signature before becoming law.

Wray is serving his third term representing House District 10, which includes Ellis County and a portion of Henderson County. He serves as vice-chair of the House Committee on Public Health, as well as on the Calendars and Ways and Means committees. A former councilman and mayor of Waxahachie, Wray practices estate planning and probate law in Ellis County.

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