Texans will decide 10 amendments to the Texas Constitution on Nov. 5, and ahead of the election, the League of Women Voters is presenting arguments both for and against each.
Proposition 1 proposes adding elected municipal judges to the list of public officials who may hold more than one office at a time.
Currently, officials that are allowed to hold multiple offices include county commissioner, justice of the peace, notary public and postmaster.
Arguments for passage of the amendment include that filling some positions would be easier for smaller municipalities if municipal judges could serve more than one community; and that it would make it easier for authorities to obtain search warrants and streamline other proceedings.
Arguments against include the possibility of a judge being elected in a community he or she was not familiar with, along with the fact the Texas Constitution already permits a person elected in one municipality to be appointed in another.
Proposition 2 would allow the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to issue general obligation bonds for the Economically Distressed Area Program (EDAP). Not to exceed $200 million, the bonds would help develop water supply and sewer projects.
Those in favor of the amendment argue that access to clean water should not be determined by socioeconomic factors and that bonds would provide a better source of funding than stressing local general funds.
Those opposed point to the economic impact, noting that it would cost $3,375,000 through 2021 and that the issue should be addressed locally, not through the state.
Proposition 3 would authorize the Legislature to give temporary property tax exemptions in areas where the governor has issued a disaster declaration. Exemptions would range from 15 to 100 percent, depending on the amount of property damage the taxpayer received. Local governments would decide whether to adopt the exemption and determine how long it would last.
Those in favor say the amendment would provide a quicker way of delivering relief and that it would be easier and more affordable for local governments than the current reassessment process.
Those against it say it’s not guaranteed to help as many as it could, since local governments will make the call, and that despite predetermined damage categories, extensive reappraisals might still be necessary.
Proposition 4 would enact a Constitutional ban on establishing a state income tax.
Those in favor note that most Texans do not want a state income tax, and that the establishment of one would dampen the state’s low-tax, pro-growth stance and fewer people would move here if one were enacted.
Those opposed say the amendment is unnecessary since the Constitution prevents one being established without a statewide referendum, that revenue from an income tax could reduce the tax burden on businesses and that without a state income tax, property and sales taxes would continue to rise.
Proposition 5Proposition 5 would dedicate sales taxes on sporting goods go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.
Those in favor of the amendment point to the fact that many parks and historic sites are badly in need of maintenance; and the money would allow for more preservation and the development of new parks.
Those opposed generally don’t want any funds dedicated to a specific purpose, which eliminates budget flexibility.
Proposition 6 would benefit cancer research, increasing the maximum bond amount for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) from $3 billion to $6 billion.
Proponents of the amendment say the move would ensure Texas continues its investment in cancer research and note that current funding for CPRIT, which has created jobs and generated other economic activity, expires in 2021.
Opponents note CPRIT’s history of mismanaging funds and say it could cost the government $12.5 million in general revenue funds.
Proposition 7 would increase from $300 million to $600 million the amount the General Land Office could annually distribute to the Available School Fund. The fund gets its money from the management, sale and leasing of more than 13 million acres of land for the Permanent School Fund.
Those in favor argue the amendment will improve funding for Texas’ public schools, which would reduce their dependence on local property taxes.
Those opposed point to a history of questionable investments at the expense of public education funding and argue the amendment could skew distributions from the Permanent School Fund.
Proposition 8 would establish a Flood Infrastructure Fund outside of general revenue though a one-time fund transfer from the state’s “rainy day” fund. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) would distribute the funds as loans or grant to establish a regional approach to flood infrastructure.
Those in favor point to disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, and note that the fund would eliminate the need for local governments to come up with matching funds because it would supply that part needed to match federal money.
Those opposed say local governments could default on a TWDB loan and that flood control has historically not been the role of state government.
Proposition 9 concerns exempting precious metals held in the state’s precious metals depository from taxation.
Those who want to see it passed say the exemption would bring Texas in line with other states that do not tax precious metals, and would allow the Texas facility to join COMEX, the leading marketplace for precious metals.
Those who do not favor the amendment say it’s unnecessary since counties do not enforce the property tax on precious metals and that it gives preference through a tax break for precious metals over other investment options.
Proposition 10 would allow law enforcement animals, on retirement, to go live with their former handler or other caretakers to adopt them without paying a fee.
Those for the move say it would assure the well-being of retired law enforcement animals and make it easier for former handlers to adopt.
Those against it say it may reduce state income in that the auction of a law enforcement animal would raise money, and there could be problems if a handler decides to retire before the animal’s retirement.
Early voting begins Oct. 21 and runs through Nov. 1. Polls are open on Nov. 5, election day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. This election marks the first time Hays County voters may cast ballots at any Voting Center instead of being required to report to the precinct in which they reside.