Voters amend state constitution in November 8 election

Capital Highlights
by ED STERLING

Voters approved seven propositions and rejected three in the Nov. 8 state constitutional amendment election.

Unofficial figures posted Nov. 9 by the Office of the Secretary of State show that a little over 5 percent of Texas’ more than 12 million registered voters cast ballots in the election.

Approved were:
• Prop. 1, authorizing the Legislature to provide the surviving spouse of a 100 percent disabled veteran with an exemption from ad valorem taxation.

• Prop. 2, authorizing the Texas Water Development Board to issue up to $6 billion in general obligation bonds.

• Prop. 3, authorizing the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to issue and sell general obligation bonds to finance education loans for students.

• Prop. 5, authorizing the Legislature to allow cities or counties to enter into interlocal contracts with other cities or counties without the imposition of a tax or the provision of a sinking fund.

• Prop. 6, allowing the General Land Office to distribute revenue from permanent school fund land or other properties to the available school fund to provide additional funding for public education.

• Prop. 9, authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision.

• Prop. 10, changing the length of the unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation of certain elected county or district officeholders if they become candidates for another office.

Rejected were:
• Prop. 4, authorizing the Legislature to permit a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area within the county.

• Prop. 7, adding El Paso County to the list of counties authorized to create conservation and reclamation districts to develop parks and recreation facilities financed by taxes.

• Prop. 8, requiring the Legislature to provide for taxation of open space land devoted to water stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.

Redistricting lines rejected by judges
A panel of three Washington, D.C., federal district judges on Nov. 8 threw out U.S. congressional and state House and Senate district lines redrawn by the Texas Legislature earlier this year.

The court order denying the State of Texas’ motion for summary judgment to have its new redistricting maps declared legal is worded as follows:

“Having carefully considered the entire record and the parties’ arguments, the Court finds and concludes that the State of Texas used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice and that there are material issues of fact in dispute that prevent this Court from entering declaratory judgment that the three redistricting plans meet the requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

New maps must be produced by the Federal District Court, Western District of Texas, San Antonio.

Veterans story exhibit debuts
“Every Veteran has a Story to Tell,” an exhibit at the Texas Capitol Visitors Center, opened on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and will run through September 2012.

Twelve Texas veterans of four wars – World War II, Vietnam and both Iraq wars – are featured in videos recounting their firsthand war experiences. The exhibit is the work of the Texas General Land Office.

Gov. Perry’s statement in honor of Veterans Day included this excerpt: “With common bonds of selflessness and bravery, our veterans are a credit to our nation and our state. Their legacy of courage and conviction endures in the form of our most precious gift: freedom.”

Jessop sentenced to 10 years

With the sentencing of Frederick Merrill Jessop last week, 10 Yearning for Zion Ranch-related defendants have been convicted on felony charges and sentenced to prison.

All were indicted on sexual assault of a child, bigamy or other charges, and two more defendants are awaiting trial, Attorney General Greg Abbott said Nov. 9.

A Coke County jury sentenced Jessop to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for performing a ceremony prohibited by Texas law, Abbott said.

YFZ Ranch, owned by the breakaway Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is near Eldorado in Schleicher County.

Prosecution of certain adult male ranch residents began after the ranch was raided by federal, state and local agencies in the spring of 2008.

Ed Sterling works for the Texas Press Association and follows the Legislature for the association.

edsterling@texaspress.com

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