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Why Statewide Officers Might Pack Up and Leave Austin

Liang Shi/KUT News
A constitutional amendment that will show up on the November 2015 ballot would remove the requirement for certain statewide officers to live in Austin for the entire four years of their terms.

Under a measure passed by the Texas House and Senate (SJR 52), statewide office-holders would be able to live outside of Austin — but voters will have a say first.

Since 1876, the Texas Constitution has required certain statewide officials to live in the state capital, and that hasn’t changed. On Wednesday, however, the Texas House approved a measure that would allow statewide officials to live somewhere other than Austin if they want to. While they would likely reside in Austin during lawmaking sessions, they wouldn't have to keep a permanent residence in Travis County for the duration of their four-year terms.

Supporters of the measure say advances in transportation and technology make it unnecessary for statewide officials to live here, but opponents say they won’t spend enough time in their offices if they live elsewhere.

This constitutional amendment would apply to offices like the comptroller, the land commissioner, the attorney general, even the lieutenant governor. According to State Sen. Donna Campbell's office, the bill would not affect the governor, who would still reside in Austin at the Governor's Mansion.

This measure will show up on the ballot this November, and it will be up to voters to decide.