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Charter Changes to Affect Referendum Elections

Petition Groups Will Need More Signatures and Have Less Time
AMARILLO -- Almost lost in Tuesday night's election results was the passage of 21 Amarillo city charter amendments.

    Most of them were minor housekeeping items but a handful mean a significant change in how residents can redress city government.

    Propositions 15, 17 and 21 will change the referendum process.

    Residents will have less time, need more signatures and will not be able to duplicate their referendum proposals for three years.

    This comes after the city was hit with several petition drives by different groups over the last year.

    Those groups challenged the city commission on ordinances they passed ranging from the water drainage fee to the ban on handheld devices while driving.

    William Sumerford led the last successful initiative referendum when voters approved a tax freeze for the eldery and disabled.

    He says that wouldn't have happened under these new rules.  "It will discourage people.  I think it will make people more likely to go for a charter amendment change than an ordinance amendment."  Sumerford said.

    Sumerford says the city charter allows 120 days for referendum petitions but, state law allows 180 days to petition for charter amendments.

    The charter changes aren't law just yet.  The city must canvass the votes and the amendments must be approved by the city commission which will be known as city council afterward.

    The change to city council was one of the charter amendments approved by voters.

    Among the other changes approved by voters; anyone planning to run for city office must pay a $100 fee or submit a petition with 100 signatures.
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