A Grinch’s guide to Texas ballot measures

Posted: Nov 01, 2013 5:00 AM
A Grinch’s guide to Texas ballot measures
Part 4 of 4 in the series Ballot measures 2013

UpdatedlogoBy Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

HOUSTON — Public choice theory holds that it’s usually rational for voters to be ignorant, as the cost of spending time to educate oneself typically outweighs any benefit from casting a nearly meaningless vote correctly.

That shouldn’t be a problem for Texas voters next Tuesday, though, as editorial boards around the state are endorsing all nine constitutional amendments with near-unanimity. Don’t think – just vote yes!

The papers in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio all favor approval of all nine ballot measures. The Austin Chronicle is the only dissenter that Ballotpedia found, and it just opposes propositions 3 and 4.

Most of these got unanimous support in the Legislature.

Even the good folks at Empower Texans, who are nobody’s idea of liberal, support six of the measures, and oppose just Proposition 6, which would use $2 billion in reserves for water projects.

It may be a waste of time to think much about voting, but we’re in favor of that kind of time-wasting, if for no better reason than speeding up the line at the polls.

So we looked for one good reason to oppose every measure, no matter how worthy it actually is, or seems. Unanimity scares us. And of course, our brain is full of spiders and we’ve got garlic in our soul.

First, we checked in with Brittany Clingen, ballot measures project director at Ballotpedia, to see just how many serious issues we’d be glossing over. We knew Proposition 6 was the big one, but you’ve already got your mind made up about it.

“Prop 6 is the only Texas ballot measure that has received any campaign contributions — over $900,000 on the support side,” she told Watchdog.org in an e-mail. “The measure with the second highest amount of traffic (still less than that of Prop 6 by approximately 1,000) is Prop 5, which would amend the constitution to allow for reverse mortgages when purchasing a home. Prop 5 has a PAC dedicated to it: Texans for Prop 5.”

She said the other two measures getting traffic on the site concern sanctions for judges — Prop 9 — and an extended exemption from inventory taxes for airplane parts — Prop 3.

The following summaries are taken verbatim from Ballotpedia, but the specious reasoning is ours alone.


Proposition 1

Summary: The Texas Deceased Veteran’s Residence Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse Amendment would grant the legislature authorization to provide property tax exemptions on all or part of the market value of the home of a member of the armed services who was killed in action to the surviving spouse, provided that the surviving spouse has not since remarried. Additionally, if the surviving spouse qualifies for and receives such an exemption and later qualifies a different property as his or her residence, the spouse is still entitled to a property tax exemption on the new home equal to the amount of the original exemption for the first home. Again, this applies only if the surviving spouse has not remarried. This measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Chris Turner (D-101) as House Joint Resolution 62 and was approved unanimously in both the House and the Senate. The enabling legislation for Prop 1 is SB 163.

Vote no because: Any exemption forms a loophole that will eventually be abused. This also creates a penalty for widows and widowers that remarry.

Proposition 2

Summary: The Texas State Medical Education Board and State Medical Education Fund Elimination Amendment would implement a constitutional amendment eliminating an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund. This measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Dan Branch (R-108) as House Joint Resolution 79. The enabling legislation for Prop 2 is HB 1061.

Vote no because: You really, really, really love the Harris County Department of Education, an obsolete body that oversees no public schools and is responsible for no students yet collects taxes for its own use. If you start trimming defunct, pointless government agencies, who knows where you’ll stop?

Proposition 3

Summary: The Texas Political Subdivision for Aircraft Tax Exemption Amendment would grant authority to politically subdivide the state to increase the number of days that property tax-exempt aircraft parts may be located in the state for the purpose of qualifying these parts for the exemption. The measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-105) as House Joint Resolution 133.

Vote no because: It’s great that somebody got the Legislature to move on inventory taxes, but they need to try again and eliminate this tax for everyone, not just a favored industry. Inventory taxes are one of the most counterproductive forms of taxation, and Texas is one of just a handful of states that still impose one.

Proposition 4

Summary: The Texas Disabled Veteran Residence Tax Exemption Amendment would grant the legislature authorization to provide property tax exemptions to partially disabled veterans or their surviving spouses on part of the market value of their residence homesteads if the homesteads were donated to the veteran by a charity. This measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Charles Perry (R-83) as House Joint Resolution 24.

Vote no because: You’re tired of reruns. The Legislature has been milking this issue for its PR value for years now, and expanding this loophole to include partial disability is inviting abuse. It’s wonderful that private organizations are paying the mortgage on home donations to veterans, but that shouldn’t be the criterion for whether or not one pays taxes.

Proposition 5

Summary: A Texas Reverse Mortgage Loan Amendment would authorize the making of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of a home and to amend certain requirements regarding a reverse mortgage loan. The measure was sponsored in the legislature by Sen. John Carona (R-16) as Senate Joint Resolution 18.

Vote no because: You have an overriding need to control the lives of others. Texas is the only state to ban reverse mortgages. Obviously, the elderly and others should be free to tap their home equity if they need or want to do so.

Proposition 6

Summary: The Texas State Water Fund Amendment, which was sponsored in the legislature by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-4), asks voters whether an amendment should be implemented to create the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan. Approximately $2 billion would be withdrawn from the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) – colloquially referred to as the Rainy Day Fund – to finance the newly created funds. Proposition 6 authorizes the transfer or deposit of state revenue into the funds, however it does not itself make the transfer or deposit of money into either fund. See the Enabling legislation section below for more information on how SWIFT and SWIRFT would be funded. The measure was known as Senate Joint Resolution 1 in the legislature. HB 4 is the enabling legislation for SJR 1.

Vote no because: You want to send a message to the Legislature that they can’t just blow through $20 billion in new tax revenue and still draw down reserves.  We also hate the idea of giving a single penny to the billion-dollar Trinity River Vision boondoggle. Unlike all its counterparts, the Tarrant Regional Water District has redevelopment authority, and has misused it in spending hundreds of millions of dollars buying and/or seizing properties in a profoundly wrongheaded economic development plan.

Proposition 7

Summary: The Texas Home Rule Charter Addition Amendment would authorize a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less. This measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Sergio Munoz, Jr. (D-36) as House Joint Resolution 87.

Vote no because: You hate self-government. Any procedure can be abused, but if a charter city wants to use appointments rather than special elections to fill short vacancies, it should be up to the voters there.

Proposition 8

Summary: The Texas Repeal of Hidalgo County Hospital District Amendment would repeal the constitutional provision that authorizes the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County. This measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Bobby Guerra (D-41) as House Joint Resolution 147.

Vote no because: You think the market should be allowed to work in providing health care, even this far down the path to socialized medicine. A 50-year-old glitch in some legal language has blocked Hidalgo County from raising taxes high enough to support a hospital district. Of course, it makes no sense to treat Hidalgo County different from the rest of the state.

Proposition 9

Summary: A The Texas Expanded Judicial Sanctions Amendment would expand the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following a formal proceeding instituted by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The measure was sponsored in the legislature by Sen. Joan Hoffman (R-17) as Senate Joint Resolution 42.

Vote no because: Judges don’t enjoy enough impunity. OK, no, we can’t even joke about this. There are a few monsters on the bench in Texas, and it’s time to do more than wag a finger at them.

Contact Jon Cassidy at jon@watchdog.org or @jpcassidy000.

The post A Grinch’s guide to Texas ballot measures appeared first on Watchdog.org.