Earlier this week, state Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City filed House Bill 3596, known as the “TEXIT Referendum Act.” It would allow Texans to vote in a referendum on whether the state should look into breaking free from the union.
Slaton’s bill specifies that on the referendum ballot, people would mull the following proposition: "Should the State of Texas reassert its status as an independent nation?"
If a majority of voters answers “yes,” then a newly established committee would investigate the feasibility of such a move and present to the state Legislature “potential plans for independence,” according to a press release.
Slaton told the Observer that he filed the bill after speaking with voters around Texas and in his district who are frustrated with the federal government’s handling of issues like immigration and gun rights.
“They want the opportunity to vote and discuss the issue, and that's what the bill does,” the Republican said.
The way pro-Texit folks see it, the state’s Constitution affirms that the people of Texas have the power to ultimately pick whether they want to give up the federal government for good. But while most state lawmakers would declare a fierce love for Texas, some vehemently disagree over questions surrounding its autonomy.
Take state Rep. Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican, who issued a scathing indictment of Slaton’s bill shortly after its announcement.
“This same State Representative — who here is violating his very oath of office — will proudly pledge allegiance to the American flag every day when we commence #txlege session,” he tweeted on Monday. “This ridiculous bill is the very definition of hypocritical & seditious treason & it is already dead.”
Slaton clapped back, pointing out that Leach's Twitter bio proclaims “Texas Forever” before adding: “Cope and seethe!”
"Texas Forever"— Bryan Slaton (@BryanforHD2) March 6, 2023
Cope and seethe! https://t.co/nfZJg1O8ZA pic.twitter.com/oRmNa7JT4A
A representative for Leach declined the Observer’s request for comment, explaining that he isn’t granting Texit-related interviews at the moment.
Slaton said he wasn’t surprised to see Leach attack him on this item, but as far as Texit is concerned, Slaton emphasizes that the proposed referendum is just a vote to start a conversation.
“Some people have taken it out of context and kind of jumped the gun on what it does, but it involves the public in this discussion on how we want to govern ourselves, or possibly govern ourselves,” he added.
It’s worth noting, of course, that certain political observers have stated that the bill is unlikely to pass. But even if such an idea were to spike in popularity, many experts contend that it’s a legal impossibility. The Texas Tribune, for instance, reported that the Union’s victory in the Civil War “set a precedent that states could not legally secede.”
“I mean, imagine what that looks like moving into the future.” – Daniel Miller, Texas Nationalist Movementtweet this
A similar bill that was filed last session by then-state Rep. Kyle Biedermann, a Fredericksburg Republican, ultimately died.
Regardless, it’s a big moment for the folks at the Texas Nationalist Movement, which has long pushed for the state’s independence. TNM President Daniel Miller said it wouldn’t cost anything to learn how Texans feel about the issue by putting it on the November ballot.
The way Miller sees it, critics opposed to the latest Texit bill (cough, Leach) are “afraid that if it goes to a vote, it will win.” He argues that lawmakers should be willing to let the people decide.
Miller added that if a Texit vote were to happen — which, he insists, is “100% constitutional” — it wouldn’t end in a knee-jerk reconfiguration. Instead, he said that such a move would kick off a deliberate and thoughtful reform process.
He also anticipates that loads of Texans would mobilize. Some independence referendums around the globe have had much support at the ballot box, he said.
“Imagine if all of a sudden we have a lot of people who have essentially given up on trying to participate in our political system and our system of governance here that suddenly come in off of the sidelines because for the first time, they've actually got something real that they can vote for, that can provide substantive change,” Miller said. “I mean, imagine what that looks like moving into the future.”