Statewide elected officials would no longer be required to live in Austin under a constitutional amendment that could be headed to voters on a general election ballot.
The Texas House on Monday morning tentatively passed Senate Joint Resolution 52 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels. The constitutional amendment would repeal a requirement in the Texas Constitution that mandates statewide elected officials, like the governor and attorney general, live in Austin — the state's capital.
Though there was a divide in the House over the resolution — Monday's vote was 94 to 46 — debate over the bill was brief. Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, was the only lawmaker to speak against the bill before the chamber voted. Craddick argued that statewide elected positions were full-time jobs, and officials should reside in Austin to do those jobs.
“How are they going to be at work every day?” Craddick asked. “I think we’re going to see a real change in what we got. I think this is a bad bill.”
The bill still faces a major hurdle — when it faces third reading, the bill needs 100 votes because joint resolutions requires two-thirds of the body to be approved. Joint resolutions need only a simple majority on second reading, but a two-thirds majority on final reading.
Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, who sponsored the bill in the House, said the residency mandate was archaic, written in the constitution when people traveled by horse-drawn carriages.
Upon final approval, the constitutional amendment will be sent to the secretary of state and then voted on by Texans in the next general election.