Abortion, marijuana decriminalization, the climate, and law enforcement featured on local ballots in Texas on May 6

Ballotpedia is covering 47 ballot measures in seven counties in Texas on May 6. Five of the 47 are citizen initiatives, and the remaining 42 were referred to the ballot by a vote of a local governing board, such as a county board or city council.

Compared to the May elections in 2019 and 2021 in Texas, this year’s ballot features nearly three times as many local ballot measures. In 2023, 2021, and 2019, Ballotpedia covered local ballot measures in the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. In 2019, there were 15 measures on the May ballot in Texas. In 2021, there were 16 measures.

A greater number of bond measures and charter amendments has led to the 2023 increase. Of the 42 referred measures, 23 are bond measures totaling over $3 billion in potential bond issues across the state. This compares to three bond measures in 2021 and 13 bond measures in 2019. The May 2023 ballot also features 22 charter amendments — 11 in El Paso, 10 in Irving, and one in San Antonio. There were 10 charter amendments in 2021, and none in 2019.

San Antonio, Texas

In San Antonio, voters will decide on one citizen-initiated measure — Proposition A. The charter amendment would change law enforcement on abortion, marijuana, and police actions. The changes include:

  1. establishing a city justice director appointed by the mayor and city council; 
  2. prohibiting police from issuing citations or making arrests for certain misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses;
  3. prohibiting police from enforcing criminal abortion laws;
  4. banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds by law enforcement; and
  5. using citations instead of arrests for certain misdemeanors.

SA Justice Charter PAC is leading the campaign in support of Proposition A. The initiative has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Greg Casar (D), City Councilmembers Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, San Antonio AFL-CIO, Ground Game Texas, ACT 4 SA, and the Bexar County Democratic Party. Ananda Tomas, executive director of ACT 4 SA, said, “The simple truth is that these policies will SAVE lives by limiting unnecessary interactions with police that can lead to serious injury or even death … By passing this we will create a safer, more just San Antonio for all that can be a beacon of light for other cities across Texas and even across the nation.”

Proposition A is opposed by U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R), State Rep. John Lujan (R), Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Councilmember Manny Pelaez, Bexar County Republican Party, and the San Antonio Police Officers Association. Mayor Nirenberg said, “What troubles me is the lack of consequences for theft up to $750 and property damage up to $2,500. That’s not pocket change. Prop A unfortunately ignores the victims, from small business, to nonprofits, to really any working family who wakes up to a smashed window.”

El Paso, Texas

El Paso voters will decide on 11 charter amendments, including Proposition K, a citizen initiative related to the climate. Proposition K would create a new article titled Climate Policy in the charter “to reduce the City’s contribution to climate change; second, to invest in an environmentally sustainable future; and third, to advance the cause of climate justice.” The article would create a Climate Department and Climate Director to advance the goals of the new article. The article would also require the city to use 100% renewable energy sources by 2045.

Ground Game Texas PAC is leading the campaign to support Proposition K. It is endorsed by Earthworks, El Paso Young Democrats, and Sunrise El Paso. The campaign said, “The El Paso Climate Charter supports small businesses because the policy directs the City to protect historically underserved entities rather than big corporations. It also ensures that no fees, fines, or financial burdens are imposed on businesses that want cheaper electricity and it creates new economic opportunities for entrepreneurs by increasing access to climate-friendly funding.”

Consumer Energy Alliance is leading the campaign in opposition to Proposition K. The initiative is opposed by U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R), El Paso Electric, El Paso Chamber, and El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Mia Romero, director of advocacy of the El Paso Chamber, said, “Renewable energy is not yet the most readily available, reliable or affordable option for those seeking to meet output demands, and would lead to the stunting of a range of industries in El Paso.”

Austin, Texas

Austin voters will be deciding on competing police-related ballot initiatives — Propositions A and B. Proposition A is sponsored by Equity Action, and Proposition B is sponsored by Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability, which is supported by the Austin Police Association. Both propositions make changes to the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) but differ in the exact powers granted to investigate police conduct. Proposition A would authorize preliminary investigations into all complaints including anonymous complaints, while Proposition B would not. Proposition B does not include a requirement for random assessment reviews of department use of force, which is included in Proposition A. Under Proposition A, OPO would also be authorized to determine the training requirements for members of the Community Police Review Commission. The measures also differ on access to police files.

Since 2020, Austin voters have decided on four local ballot measures related to law enforcement.

Early voting started on April 24 for the May 6 election in Texas.