Texas Ballot Propositions 2015

Did you know there is an election on November 3? There is!  Early voting starts October 19.

The statewide ballot is a bit of a snoozefest; we are being asked to approve seven constitutional amendments this year, none of which has enormous implications. Since 1876, we have voted on 666 amendments and the “Ayes” have an all-time record of 484-179 (by comparison, Bear Bryant finished his coaching career with 323 wins and 85 losses).

Here are the propositions and my feelings on each. Hopefully you will learn something. If you disagree, let me know in the comments.

Proposition 1: This is a proposal to expand the homestead exemption on property taxes. Homeowners would save an average of $126 per year, with the biggest benefit going to the wealthy. Renters (like myself) would not benefit at all. It would, however, create an enormous hole in the state budget, to the tune of $600 million per year (this is the cost the state will have to pay to local school districts).

I plan on voting AGAINST.
Proposition 2: This is a proposal to grant a property tax exemption to surviving spouses of disabled veterans. While this seems laudable, it would be better for the State to give veterans’ spouses (not all of whom are homeowners!) a direct benefit rather than lard up the state constitution with more loopholes. If property taxes are bad for veterans and their husbands/wives, then shouldn’t we consider getting rid of them entirely (and replacing it with a state income tax?).

I plan on voting AGAINST.

Proposition 3: This repeals the requirement that certain state officials live in Austin. As far as I am concerned, I’d prefer they stay as far away as possible. The last thing we need is more out-of-towners driving up the rent.

I plan on voting FOR.

Proposition 4: This would permit charitable foundations associated with sports teams to conduct raffles. This and Prop 5 are the sort of technocratic minutiae that makes Texas constitutional referenda seem ridiculous to casual observers (fun fact: democracy in the Lone Star State is best thought of us a sort of war of attrition waged against the electorate by the Legislature).

About the only people against this are a handful of Baptists in East Texas. The rest of us just want to lay our hands on the blessed Cowboys/Texans/Rangers/Astros/Rockets/Spurs/Mavs/Stars merch. Hallelujer!

I plan on voting FOR.

Proposition 5: Lets small (less than 7,500 people) build private roads.  Literally nobody in the Legislature voted against this. I suppose the point is that counties should be able to help ranchers and oil men out. There are other forms of corporate welfare that are far more offensive.

I plan on voting FOR.

Proposition 6: This proposes a (state) constitutional right to hunt and fish. As often happens during off-year, this seems to have been designed to be a “hot button cultural issue” to draw voters to the polls. But as far as controversies go, this one seems rather a dud.

Proponents claim that hunting and fishing needs to be protected from encroachments of federal environmental laws, as well as lawsuits from “extreme animal rights groups.” This of course will not do anything vis-a-vis the Feds (have we not heard of the Supremacy Clause, gentlemen?) nor do I think that PETA (which has obliged the sponsors by actively opposing this amendment) is any real threat.

Nevertheless, we’re being asked to vote our values on this one, and this is the rare chance I have to agree with the National Rifle Association. I am an environmentalist, because I believe that humanity is part of the ecosystem. I believe that hunting and fishing (particularly “traditional methods” which are protected by this amendment) are essential for us to cast off the shackles of modernity and re-engage with Mother Earth on a more primitive, visceral level.

Moreover, many states (including both very conservative and very progressive states, like Vermont) have embraced the right to fish and hunt. This would put Texas in an emerging majority of states that embrace the “back-to-nature” ethos.

I plan on voting FOR.

Proposition 7: This would set aside a certain amount of tax revenue for the construction and maintenance of non-tolled roads and highways, as well as to pay down debt on other transportation projects (not necessarily roads). Although it is being opposed by the Texas AFT (I suppose because it locks that money away from education), the fact is that Texas needs to build good infrastructure.

I plan on voting FOR.

Honorable Mentions: Voters in the City of Houston will be asked to elect a new mayor, as well as vote on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance a/k/a Proposition 1.

I am indifferent as to the mayoral election, although I would encourage you to vote for my friend John LaRue for city council.

With regard to Proposition 1 (HERO), I would ask you to vote YES.


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