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Update - Petition for Initiative Received for Ordinance

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Good evening, Mayor & City Council -

Please find attached document outlining the timeline and requirements related to the petition process.  I have also included a copy of the letter sent to the initiating committee confirming receipt of their statement describing their intent to begin the petition-driven initiative.

Sincerely,
Andrew Freeman
Interim City Manager  

Uploaded files:
Andrew Freeman Deputy City Manager

Andrew,

I am requesting Bryan, our city attorney, compare and contrast the Ordinance Outlawing Abortion, Declaring Amarillo a Sanctuary City for the Unborn submitted by the citizen initiating committee with current state laws and statutes.  I would also like him to give his opinion on the constitutionality of the submitted ordinance as well.  Please have this prepared in an easy to ready document showing what is the same (complete duplication) and what is different or added.  When he has this document prepared, please post it here on the message board for all of Council to use in their research.

I appreciate all the time staff is putting into this issue.  

Quote from Don.Tipps@amarillo.gov on January 23, 2024, 7:45 pm

Andrew,

I am requesting Bryan, our city attorney, compare and contrast the Ordinance Outlawing Abortion, Declaring Amarillo a Sanctuary City for the Unborn submitted by the citizen initiating committee with current state laws and statutes.  I would also like him to give his opinion on the constitutionality of the submitted ordinance as well.  Please have this prepared in an easy to ready document showing what is the same (complete duplication) and what is different or added.  When he has this document prepared, please post it here on the message board for all of Council to use in their research.

I appreciate all the time staff is putting into this issue.  

Yes, sir.  We will get started on that analysis right away.  

Thank you,
Andrew Freeman
Interim City Manager

Andrew Freeman Deputy City Manager

I wanted to make sure I understood correctly that if someone signed the petition they could have their name removed from the petition. Andrew if you could put that precess on the message board. I know it would be greatly appreciated.

Quote from Tom.Scherlen@amarillo.gov on January 25, 2024, 4:36 pm

I wanted to make sure I understood correctly that if someone signed the petition they could have their name removed from the petition. Andrew if you could put that precess on the message board. I know it would be greatly appreciated.

Councilmember Scherlen,

That is correct. I have attached an example affidavit that can be filed with the City Secretary's Office to withdraw their name. It must be received prior to the date on which we receive the completed petition back from the initiating committee.

The process for someone to withdraw their name from a petition is outlined under Chapter 277 of the Texas Election Code:

Sec. 277.0022.  WITHDRAWAL OF SIGNATURE.  (a)  A signer may not withdraw the signature from a petition on or after the date the petition is received by the authority with whom it is required to be filed.  Before that date, a signer may withdraw the signature by deleting the signature from the petition or by filing with the authority with whom the petition is required to be filed an affidavit requesting that the signature be withdrawn from the petition.

(b)  A withdrawal affidavit filed by mail is considered to be filed at the time of its receipt by the appropriate authority.

(c)  The withdrawal of a signature nullifies the signature on the petition and places the signer in the same position as if the signer had not signed the petition.

Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 728, Sec. 83, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.

Thanks,
Andrew Freeman
Interim City Manager

Uploaded files:
Andrew Freeman Deputy City Manager
Quote from Don.Tipps@amarillo.gov on January 23, 2024, 7:45 pm

Andrew,

I am requesting Bryan, our city attorney, compare and contrast the Ordinance Outlawing Abortion, Declaring Amarillo a Sanctuary City for the Unborn submitted by the citizen initiating committee with current state laws and statutes.  I would also like him to give his opinion on the constitutionality of the submitted ordinance as well.  Please have this prepared in an easy to ready document showing what is the same (complete duplication) and what is different or added.  When he has this document prepared, please post it here on the message board for all of Council to use in their research.

I appreciate all the time staff is putting into this issue.  

Good afternoon, 

Please find attached comparison document that was prepared by Bryan.

Thank you,
Andrew Freeman
Interim City Manager

Uploaded files:
Andrew Freeman Deputy City Manager

Thank you

Andrew and Bryan,

A few questions/clarifications for you:

Does current state law define that life begins at fertilization and is protected during the entire embryonic and fetal stages of pregnancy as I read in definitions of 170A(2)(3)?  Does state law also define pregnancy to begin at fertilization in 171.201(5)(A)

MLD states that his ord will further protect life to the point of conception and current state law does not.  If the above does define and protect life at conception/fertilization then what prevents an individual from taking a private right of action if the abortion was performed prior to 6 weeks of gestation?  

State  law provides for criminal and civil penalties under 170A.004 and 170A.005 for anyone who violates 170A.002 prohibited abortion.  State law also provides for criminal penalty in 171.103 and a civil liability in 171.104. State law also provides for a private right of action to be brought by “any person” under 171.208.

MLD ord provides a private right of action against any person that performs or aids and abets a prohibited abortion on a resident of Amarillo regardless of the law in the jurisdiction of where the abortion occurred.  Does 171.208, which provides for a private right of action against any one who performs or aids and abets or even reimburses the costs of an abortion, restrict the civil action in  any way to the location of the abortion being performed within state boundaries?  If not, is it reasonable to infer that the state law allows for the civil action to be argued in court, that regardless of the location of the abortion, the law was broken and damages could be claimed?

Assuming a civil action was filed for the purposes described in state law, what is the additional benefit of filing a suit under a municipal ordinance in lieu of state law?  Why would a citizen be more protected as a resident of Amarillo instead of a citizen of the state of Texas?  

 

Positional statement:

I am in favor of extending the protection of life to the point of  fertilization if indeed it is not clear under state law.  

I am in favor of exercising our local jurisdictional authority to further protect life if a local ordinance is more powerful than current state law and could be applied further than the jurisdictional limits that the state has already occupied.

I am in favor of a local ordinance that supports all the current state definitions and laws that protect the life of the unborn and see no reason that Amarillo can not call itself a “sanctuary city for the unborn” within the limitations of municipal authority.

 

HB1280 states that “unborn child” means an individual…from fertilization to birth” which would put the city in alignment within state law, but the heartbeat act says differently and has caused confusion for health care professionals.

The lack of clarity for healthcare professionals in what they can and cannot do has caused great harm to pregnant women throughout the state. One of these risks to the life of the mother occurs should an ectopic pregnancy take place, as fertilization begins before implantation and can cause death to the mother without proper and timely intervention. With Amarillo being a regional medical hub (encompassing parts of five states) needs to be taken into consideration.

I continue to have great concern about the legality and enforceability of this ordinance. It appears to being sold as another line of deterrent rather than something which is actually enforceable. As Bryan noted in his comments, “the SCO does not cite legal authority that allows a city to regulate conduct that occurs in another state by ordinance.”

In addition, calling this a sanctuary city for the unborn is a win for MLD. The connotation that SANCTUARY anything brings negative thinking to most peoples’ minds.  He believes Amarillo to be a trophy to be conquered. MLD has shown that he will sow division in Amarillo with disregard for the impacts, by his consistent use of social and print media to challenge anyone who speaks against him or questions his work. The City council obligation is to the citizens of Amarillo. If the decision is made that an ordinance is necessary, it should be to support and do what is best for our community, not as prize for MDL!

After reading Senator Kevin Sparks response in the paper I’m not sure this is even in our realm of decision making.

I believe Cole has asked good questions that need to be clarified before I offer a complete response; but I do have a few comments to make now.  

  1.  This is seeming more and more like a personal issue with Mark Lee Dickson.  Almost every post I read has his name or initials in it.  I would ask ALL of Council and Mayor to remove personal feelings towards MLD from this issue and look at it in an unbiased manner. Whether you like the guy or not, this is an issue that was put on agenda that we are all addressing and know its importance.  Making it personal skews perspectives. I believe we are all doing our due diligence in researching this ordinance, state law and talking with our community to make the best decision for Amarillo.  If possible, I am asking you remove personal feelings one way or the other towards MLD and focus on the issue. I do not pretend to know anyone's motives nor will I make a decision based on my personal feelings towards anyone involved in this issue.  I could not care any less what label is put on an ordinance or law that protects human life.  Let's not lose focus of the real issue at hand. 
  2. I have had many talks with citizens and after our work session, I have come to the conclusion all Council is okay with most of the proposed ordinance......Section 8-6-2 Abortion Prohibited Within City Limits; Section 8-6-5 Abortion Inducing Drugs Prohibited; Section 8-6-6 Prohibited Criminal Organizations; Section 8-6-7 Disposal of the Remains of an Unborn Child Killed by an Elective Abortion.  I would like to ask if this is true.  Could each of you let me know where you stand on the above mentioned sections of the proposed ordinance?
  3. I asked each of you in our work session if you believed life began at conception.  Each of you answered the affirmative.  Since this is the case, we all believe (in agreement with HB-1280) we are talking about an unborn Amarillo citizen in it's mother's womb.  I want to ask this question of each of you as well....If you knew children of Amarillo were being taken across state lines and murdered, do you feel you would owe a duty, as an elected official of this city, to do something about this atrocity?  If the answer is, "yes", then why is this section of the proposed ordinance any different when you know a human life is being taken?  This is happening to our unborn citizens.  With Public Safety as one of our pillars, do we not owe a duty to protect those citizens?  Does SB8 protect unborn Amarillo citizens from being killed by a physician in New Mexico or anywhere else outside the state that is not licensed in our great state of Texas?  This is where Section 8-6-4 comes in.  It is my understanding this section is preventing the scenario I asked about above. 
  4. I would also like to ask what part of the proposed ordinance do you disagree with?  Maybe we can focus on those issues and not waste time on the things we agree with. 

Please know I am not here trying to convince anyone of anything.  These are questions I ask myself and would like to know where all of you stand or how you would answer them. I want the truth out there.  There seems to be so much misinformation and I want to make sure we are, at least all on the same page when it comes to facts.  I am not saying we all need to agree; but at least we need to know the facts.  I look forward to hearing from each of you.  

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