The Port Arthur News
Texas voters have a responsibility to go to the polls today to decide the fate of 10 proposed amendments to the Texas constitution. But odds are, not many of us will.
The Texas constitution, which was adopted in 1876, is one of the longest state constitutions in the U.S. Counting the upcoming election, 643 amendments have been proposed. Of those, 467 — 73 percent — have been adopted.
In the last constitutional amendment election, held in 2009, all 11 of the proposed amendments were approved by voters. In that election, just over 1 million Texans went to the polls to decide whether to amend the constitution. For comparison, in the presidential election one year earlier more than 8 million voters went to the polls. Turnout may not reach one million this year.
In Jefferson County, fewer than 1 percent of the registered voters cast ballots during the 10-day early voting period. By the time all the countin’ and shoutin’ is done Tuesday night, it could be that about 3 percent of the state’s voters decided some pretty important issues. This is a pattern that state legislators understand and they take full advantage of the low turnout and the tendency of voters to approve the propositions that get on the ballot.
We think that’s how one stinker of an amendment, Prop. 6, got on the ballot. The Republican supermajority in the legislature devised a plan to begin whittling down the Permanent School Fund. That fund is money raised from mineral rights or other proceeds from one-half of the state’s public lands. It is money the state has raised and saved for the future, educating our students. The interest from the fund is used to help pay for public education, but the principal is never touched, unless Prop. 6 is passed. That would allow $300 million a year that should go into the Permanent School Fund to be spent.
The legislators know that turnout will be low, they also know that most propositions that get on the ballot are approved by voters. Those legislators are trying to spend money that should be invested in the Permanent School Fund for educating “we the people” because many of the ultra conservatives don’t really believe education is a proper role of government. Tell them no, we won’t spend money that should be invested for the future so young Texans for generations to come will have access to free education. Note no on Prop. 6
Of the remaining propositions on the ballot, some do good, none do great harm. Here is the ballot wording and we indicate those we believe should be passed by voters:
Vote Yes on Prop. 1 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran.”
Vote Yes on Prop. 2 — “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $6 billion at any time outstanding.”
Vote Yes on Prop. 3 — “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of general obligation bonds of the State of Texas to finance educational loans to students.”
Vote Yes on Prop. 4 — “The constitutional amendment 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 and to pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes imposed by the county on property in the area. The amendment does not provide authority for increasing ad valorem tax rates.”
Vote Yes on Prop. 5 — “The constitutional amendment 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.”
Vote No on Prop. 6 — “The constitutional amendment clarifying references to the permanent school fund, 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, and providing for an increase in the market value of the permanent school fund for the purpose of allowing increased distributions from the available school fund.”
Prop. 7 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.”
Vote Yes on Prop. 8 — “The constitutional amendment providing for the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-space land devoted to water stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.”
Vote Yes on Prop. 9 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision.”
Prop. 10 — “The constitutional amendment to change 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.”