The city’s controversial HERO ordinance prohibits discrimination based on federally recognized groups such as race and age, but also extends those rights to sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents of the ordinance led a petition drive to bring the issue to a public vote. It now appears the city attorney will announce whether that petition drive is valid this Friday.
Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein is a longtime city hall observer. He says there are a few possibilities at Friday’s announcement.
“One, of course, is they have enough signatures that have been validated, I think about 17,000. Second option is they don’t have enough and if that’s in contention you might see those who petitioned the city go to court and have them checked,” Stein said.
A third option, Stein says, is that the city attorney could rule the petition inappropriate or ill-timed under ballot initiative law. The city previously used that rationale on the petition to overturn red light cameras but lost that battle in court. Stein says the most likely outcome is that the opponents do have enough signatures to put the ordinance on the November ballot.
“If they do, I think it is a game changer because the city has never been supportive of these types of referenda and petition initiatives. By that I mean they have overturned same-sex and equal rights amendment types in the past,” Stein said.
Stein says mid-term elections tend to favor Republican turnout and if it does go to a vote this issue will mobilize Republican voters more than Democrats. The city attorney will announce the status of the petition drive at a special council committee meeting Friday morning.