This November, Texans have the opportunity to vote on 10 statewide constitutional amendments. Ranging from minor statutorial changes to large bonding initiatives, these amendments are the result of the most recent session, which demonstrated how feeble and ineffective the Legislature is, especially with a Republican super-majority.
While several of us at Burnt Orange Report disagree on principal with the need to vote on minor procedural changes (such as the El Paso amendment, #7, or past years' votes on term limits for Emergency Services Districts) this year we take bigger issue with the fact that major policy initiatives can only gain traction through a series of uninspiring Constitutional amendments. On education funding, land use authority, and water conservation, is this really the best the Legislature can come up with? Sadly, for the time being, the answer appears to be yes.
So while we encourage you to get out and vote FOR every amendment but Proposition 6, we want to see more leadership on crucial issues facing Texas from our supposed leaders in the capitol.
Below are our endorsements on the 10 statewide propositions. These are the weighted consensus of our staff. Staff members with material or professional interest in any of these amendments (or the Travis County bonds, below) recused themselves from voting on that item.
Texas Constitutional Amendments
Proposition 1: Homestead Exemptions for Veterans' Spouses — FOR. This amendment fixes a major problem for the families of disabled veterans, at minimal cost to the state. We do hope that a future amendment adjusts this exemption such that if the surviving spouse remarries, they lose the exemption. But for now, this is an important measure to help those who serve our country. Burnt Orange Report endorses a vote FOR Prop 1.
Proposition 2: Water Bonds — FOR. It is frustrating that this amendment is the best our legislature can come up with to support water infrastructure, and that this is the sole mechanism to fund such projects. However, it's a start, so we encourage voters to support this amendment and we encourage the Legislature to get real about water stewardship and conservation. Burnt Orange Report endorses a vote FOR Prop 2.
Proposition 3: Low-Interest Student Loans — FOR. If this proposition is not approved, a very important source of financial aid for Texas students will run dry. College costs are escalating, and Texas families can't keep up. Burnt Orange Report endorses a vote FOR Prop 3.
Proposition 4: Tax Increment Financing — FOR. Counties only have the land-use authority expressly granted them by the state constitution and/or Legislature. This amendment will allow counties and unincorporated areas to use TIFs to rebuild or redevelop unused or blighted areas. This is procedural, but important. Burnt Orange Report unanimously endorses a vote FOR Prop 4.
Proposition 5: Interlocal Contracts — FOR. This will allow cities and counties to enter into inter-local agreements longer than one year, which is important for long-term planning. This will provide a tool for cities and counties to work better together. Burnt Orange Report unanimously endorses a vote FOR Prop 5.
Proposition 6: Permanent School Fund — AGAINST. If there is one issue that defined the 2011 legislative session it was cuts to education funding. However, Proposition 6 does nothing to solve the serious structural instabilities facing public education in our rapidly growing state. A majority of our staff feels that it is necessary to point out that that while passing Prop 6 will probably help some students in the short run, it is akin to putting a band-aid over a gushing artery. We want to see a real, sustainable plan to fund education long-term in Texas, and we want our leaders to show us the plan and engage us, the people of Texas, in supporting it. In the meantime we can't get excited about this quick fix. Burnt Orange Report narrowly endorses a vote AGAINST Prop 6.
Proposition 7: El Paso Bond Authority — FOR. Residents of El Paso County should have the right to decide if they want to tax themselves to fund conservation and reclamation districts. Burnt Orange Report unanimously endorses a vote FOR Prop 7.
Proposition 8: Water Stewardship — FOR. The vast majority of land in Texas is privately owned, so if our state is to engage in real conservation and stewardship efforts, we need tools with which to do so. Prop 8 provides a mechanism to encourage private land-owners to engage in activities that benefit water quality and water conservation. More and better water conservation tools, please. Burnt Orange Report endorses a vote FOR Prop 8.
Proposition 9: Pardons for Deferred Adjudication — FOR. This resolves an inconsistency in the law. Burnt Orange Report unanimously endorses a vote FOR Prop 9.
Proposition 10: Resign-to-Run Dates — FOR. On a procedural level, this adjusts our election code to comply with SB 100's changes to our election calendar, enabling current officeholders to announce they're seeking a different position without forcing an early resignation. Here in Travis County, we've seen this play out as potential candidates for offices other than that which they hold are forced to dance around whether or not they're running, delay launching a campaign or raising funds, or reaching out to voters. It's silly. If folks want to run, let's make it easier for them to make their intentions known. Burnt Orange Report unanimously endorses a vote FOR Prop 10.
This year, Burnt Orange Report also chose to weigh in on the Travis County bonds on the ballot. All Travis County voters can vote on these propositions. Early Voting locations are here and more information from the campaign to pass them was posted on BOR here.
Travis County Propositions 1 & 2
Proposition 1: FOR. While the proportion of spending in Prop 1 is still heavy on road upgrades, this mobility oriented package contains new monies for needed improvements to county sidewalks, bike lanes, roadways, and transportation infrastructure. Travis County is taking a step in the right direction by diversifying its transportation spending and working directly with communities of interest to prioritize project spending. Burnt Orange Report unanimously endorses a vote FOR Travis County Prop 1.
Proposition 2: FOR. New parklands, land conservation projects, and the preservation of even more open space makes Prop 2 an easy sell to Austin voters. More please! Burnt Orange Report unanimously endorses a vote FOR Travis County Prop 2.
Early Voting runs through this Friday. Election Day is next Tuesday, November 8. Now go VOTE!