October 23, 2019 643 PM
TEXAS — This year, in an off-year special election, voters in Texas will decide on 10 new amendments to the state constitution — including some with big and long term effects.
Polls opened Monday for early voting in the November 5 special election. Early voting is October 21-25 and October 28-November 1 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Presidio County Courthouse at 301 N. Highland in Marfa, and the Presidio Annex at 300 O’Reilly in Presidio.
Election day is Tuesday, November 5 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Marfa Central Fire Station at 110 East Lincoln for precincts 1 and 7, and at the Presidio Annex for precincts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Proposition 1 would allow elected municipal judges to serve in more than one city at the same time. Currently, only appointed judges are allowed to serve multiple cities. In Marfa and Presidio, judges are appointed, not elected; the proposition will not affect judgeships in our county.
If passed, Prop 1 could make it easier for officials to coordinate throughout the region. But it’s not without drawbacks. “If [a] municipal judge were elected to a community where he or she was not a resident, he or she may not have an understanding or interest in that community,” the nonpartisan League of Women Voters notes on its website.
Proposition 2 would reauthorize the Texas Water Development Board to raise bond money for water and sewer projects in economically distressed areas, with a cap at $200 million in funding. That could help bring water and sewer lines to communities without them — including the colonia of Las Pampas north of Presidio, which to this day doesn’t have running water.
The Texas Legislature has authorized water bond projects like this at least three times, in 1989, 2007 and 2017. Critics say the state shouldn’t “dedicate funds to specific programs” and should instead pay for infrastructure improvements “using general revenue,” according to the Texas House Research Office.
Proposition 3 would allow the Texas Legislature to give temporary property tax exemptions after disasters. That would give relief to victims and could even save the state money, according to the League of Women Voters, since flood- or fire-damaged properties wouldn’t have to go through the current reappraisal process. But critics argue the measure “would not go far enough in providing property tax relief to taxpayers,” according to a House Research Office analysis. That’s because the exemptions aren’t mandatory.
Proposition 4 — one of the more contentious measures on the ballot this year — prohibits Texas from adopting a state income tax. State income tax is an unpopular idea in Texas, with 71 percent of the state opposing it, according to a 2019 University of Texas and Texas Tribune poll.
But Texas already doesn’t have income tax. And thanks to the 1993 Bullock Amendment, the state would also need to hold a referendum before ever instituting one. That helps explain why Democratic State Senator José Rodríguez “strongly” opposes the measure, telling constituents in an email that it “ties the hands not only of future legislatures but of the public.”
Proposition 5 would dedicate state sales taxes on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission “to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites.” Supporters say the move protects deteriorating landmarks without imposing new taxes. Critics say it gives budgeters “less flexibility,” according to a House Research Office analysis.
Proposition 6 would increase the maximum bond amount authorized for the state’s Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas from $3 billion to $6 billion. CPRIT’s awarding of grants will run out in 2021. The program currently generates billions in economic activity and brings quality researchers to the area according to VOTE411.org’s nonpartisan voters guide. But voters might keep in mind the organization’s granting was halted in 2012 for mismanagement, though that was lifted after a 2013 restructuring.
Proposition 7 would double the distribution of land sale funds to the “available school fund” from $300 million to $600 million and would allow the State Board of Education, the General Land Office and other entities to manage revenue from land and other properties.
It would improve funding for public schools and would mean the state would rely less on property taxes to pay for education. The League of Women Voters says drawbacks could include lower overall school funding if the Permanent School Fund decreases, because The State Board of Education is required to make a percentage-based distribution to the Available School Fund.
Proposition 8, according to the Secretary of State’s explanatory statements, would create a special flood infrastructure fund “in the state treasury, using money appropriated from the economic stabilization fund. The flood infrastructure fund would provide additional resources to implement plans to mitigate flood damage.”
The Texas Water Development Board would be authorized to use money in the flood infrastructure fund for drainage, flood mitigation, or flood control projects.
Proposition 9 exempts precious metals from ad valorem taxation when they are held in a Texas precious metal depository. The state oversees a privately run depository, opened in 2018. While not taxing these metals would “allow Texas depositories to be more competitive” in the market, it would “give preference through a tax break for precious metals over other investment choices,” according to the League of Women Voters.
Proposition 10 allows law enforcement animal handlers to adopt retiring law enforcement animals without a fee. The Secretary of State’s explanatory statement says, “Currently, the Texas Constitution prevents the transfer of certain public property, such as law enforcement animals, to a private person or organization at no cost.”