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With No Opposition in Sight, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Formally Launches 2018 Re-Election Bid

SAN ANTONIO — Warning that “liberals are trying to mess with Texas,” a confident Gov. Greg Abbott promised Friday he’ll fight to keep Texas in conservative hands if voters give him another four years in office.

“Every far-left liberal from George Soros to Nancy Pelosi are trying to undo the Texas brand of liberty and prosperity,” Abbott said, referring to the Democratic mega donor and U.S. House minority leader, respectively. “I have news for those liberals: Texas values are not up for grabs.”

Abbott’s wife Cecilia and daughter Audrey were at his side when Abbott made his re-election bid official at Sunset Station, the historic and beautifully restored train depot in the St. Paul Square District in downtown San Antonio. His daughter introduced the governor to the cheering audience, telling the crowd, “there truly is no place like Texas and no better person to lead it than my dad.”

When Abbott took the stage he quickly began ticking off a list of what he considered his top accomplishments, including a business tax cut, curbs on abortion, more road construction and what he called the “toughest border security law” in the country.

One of the biggest applause lines came when Abbott touted passage of Senate Bill 4, which supporters call a ban on so-called sanctuary cities and detractors describe as a “show me your papers” law because it allows police to inquire about immigration status during any lawful detention, including after a routine traffic stop.

“We finally have banned sanctuary cities,” Abbott said. “It is irresponsible and reckless to release known criminals back out on your streets.”

Lest his supporters get complacent, Abbott noted that Democrats — who haven’t won a statewide race since 1994 — made impressive gains in Harris County in the last presidential election and warned that “liberals think that they have found cracks in our armor.”

“I will not allow big government policies to lead Texas down the wrong path,” Abbott said. “I’m counting on you to have my back.”

Abbott never specifically referred to the special session of the Legislature that begins next week. The governor was forced to call lawmakers back following the end of the 140-day regular session to avoid a shutdown of the Texas Medical Board and a few other agencies that became hostages in a war between House and Senate leaders.

But Abbott, responding to a clamor from conservative activists, did refer to some of the other items he wants addressed — including changes to the property tax system and more curbs on abortion — during the special session. He didn’t talk about the “bathroom bill” that seeks to restrict which bathrooms transgender Texans can use.

But he was asked about it at an event earlier, and he told reporters he wanted the legislation — opposed by major business groups and top CEOs — because of a “tough legal issue” that pits local school policies against guidelines under Title IX, a federal statute that bans discrimination based on gender in schools.

“Obviously I’m pro-business,” Abbott said. “What we have to do is to find a way to make the law and the way that schools operate in the state of Texas consistent with Title IX. That’s one of our objectives during the special session.”

Friday’s kick-off event was held four years to the day after Abbott first threw his hat in the ring — just across the highway from the train depot at La Villita — in 2013. Abbott noted earlier Friday that he again chose his wife’s hometown of San Antonio — and the place where he got married — to ask voters for another four years in office.

Now, like then, he is the runaway favorite to win the state’s top elective office. Now, like then, he is sitting on top of a huge warchest that any rival would struggle to match. And today, just like in 2013, Abbott’s Republican Party is again favored to win every statewide elected office.

“Being as close as we are to the election, Abbott looks extraordinarily strong,” said Austin-based GOP consultant Ted Delisi. “There’s not even a rumor or a sniff of opposition. This is as good as it gets.”

A lot has changed, though, since Abbott took the reins from longtime Gov. Rick Perry four years ago.

The Democrats have been swept out of power in Washington, removing a convenient foil for Republicans. President Trump’s low approval ratings and scandal-prone White House, meanwhile, are creating headwinds for the GOP nationally. And at home, Texas Republicans are as divided as ever, with relatively moderate House members and their leaders battling more conservative Senate counterparts.

So if Abbott has anything to worry about on the political front at this point — and it’s not clear he does — it would be from within his own party as opposed to any candidate the bedraggled Texas Democrats have conjured up so far.

Though firebrand Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has steadfastly denied any interest in a race against Abbott, talk of a sudden reversal or last-minute betrayal has become something of a parlor game among Austin insiders and lobbyists.

Even if Patrick did take on the governor, though, University of Texas pollster Jim Henson said it would be a tough race for the lieutenant governor. Abbott has the highest approval ratings of any statewide officeholder and Henson said the governor’s numbers among conservative Republicans make him “nearly bulletproof.”

“Patrick is a pretty formidable politician,” Henson said, “but he does start with weaker job approval ratings and less name recognition than the governor does. And he would have to change Republican primary voters’ minds about Greg Abbott.”

Despite the challenges GOP candidates confront nationwide, Abbott has even less to fear from Democrats. With less than five months before the deadline to file for a spot on the primary ballot, no serious Democratic contender has emerged yet in the governor’s race.

Former Democratic state Rep. Allen Vaught of Dallas is looking hard at a statewide run — but not for governor. Instead, he’s thinking about running for lieutenant governor, even though the Democrats already have a serious if little known contender in Houston businessman Mike Collier running for that spot. He said Patrick is a softer target than Abbott.

“I don’t think anybody is unbeatable, but I think Patrick is more vulnerable than Abbott from a common sense point of view,” Vaught said.

Former Democratic state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio has also been mentioned as a potential Abbott challenger. This week Martinez Fischer told the Texas Tribune he’s “not ruling it out” and has been “talking with party leaders and progressive donors” about a possible run. But it hasn’t moved beyond those conversations into anything concrete.

Fischer did lay out a possible attack line: he said Abbott was “exposed” on the economy, noting that in the land of the “Texas Miracle” the state’s unemployment rate is now above the national average and Texas is slipping in the rankings as the best place to do business.

Abbott is already working to take the sting out of any criticism of economic slippage in Texas. About an hour and a half before his campaign announcement, Abbott toured the San Antonio headquarters of aircraft maker Boeing — which recently announced it was locating its new global services division in Plano — to tout the “growing connection between Boeing and the state of Texas.”

During a brief exchange with reporters, Abbott was asked about a CNBC study of the top states in which to do business. For the first time since the cable network began ranking states, Texas fell out of the top two, and instead placed fourth. Abbott blamed a fall in oil prices but said he’s working to keep the economy diversified.

“Listen, oil got cut in half and Texas is still an energy state and whenever oil prices get cut in half it’s going to be impact our economy,” Abbott said. “The reason why I’m here (at Boeing) is because this is an example of my efforts to ensure that we are expanding jobs in areas that have nothing whatsoever to do with energy so that when oil prices do take the tumble in the future we won’t suffer this type of setback.”

Andy Duehren contributed to this report.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • So far, Texas Democrats have three statewide candidates that party leaders see as serious. A candidate for governor isn’t one of them. [link]
  • Emails to Gov. Abbott reveal how the governor’s recent vetoes ruffled the feathers of those who didn’t know they were coming. [link]
  • Organizations representing hundreds of Texas cities and school boards unsuccessfully urged Gov. Greg Abbott to veto a bill aimed at restricting drone use around the state. [link]

Author:  JAY ROOT – The Texas Tribune

Despite High Expectations for 2016, No Surge in Texas Hispanic Voter Turnout

Turnout among Texas Hispanics eligible to vote rose slightly in the 2016 presidential elections compared to four years earlier, according to newly released U.S. Census data.

There were high hopes that this would be the year.

Amid Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about Hispanics and on-the-ground voter engagement efforts, election watchers prognosticated that 2016 could usher in a surge of Hispanic voters in Texas.

But now that the excitement around the 2016 election has quieted, the surge appears to have been more of a trickle.

Turnout among Texas Hispanics eligible to vote — citizens 18 and older — in 2016 slightly improved, increasing to 40.5 percent from 38.8 percent during the 2012 presidential election, according to U.S. Census data released Wednesday. The small increase is a discouraging sign for those who expected a spike in Hispanic turnout.

Instead, turnout among Hispanic Texans during presidential elections continued its slow, steady increase since 2008, mostly in line with population growth and possibly more Hispanic Texans turning of age to vote. But last year’s turnout is still lower than turnout in the 2004 presidential election.

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Only black and Asian Texans saw significant changes in turnout compared to the last presidential election. Considering those eligible to vote, black turnout dropped from 63.1 percent in 2012 to 57.2 percent last year. Meanwhile, turnout among Asians — a small sliver of both the state’s overall population and the electorate — jumped up from 42.4 percent to 47.3 percent.

For Asian voters, that surge translated into an increase of 124,000 more votes in 2016, a larger increase than what Hispanic voters showed, according to the Census data. Compared to 2012, Hispanics only cast about 48,000 more votes in the 2016 election. White Texans, meanwhile, increased their total number of ballots cast by about 818,000 votes.

Asian voters, in particular, were credited for helping flip the reliably-Republican Fort Bend County into the Democrats’ column in 2016. The Asian share of the population in that suburban enclave southwest of Houston is four times as high as their share statewide.

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Soon after the election, there were signs that a spike in Hispanic turnout didn’t materialize when counties with a larger percentage of Hispanic adults than the state’s average saw little overall change in voter turnout. (Texas doesn’t track voters by race and ethnicity so there is no way of telling from the state’s data how much of that turnout was made up by Hispanic voters.)

Some had also pinned their hopes for improved participation among Hispanics on sweeping Democratic victories in places like Harris County where number crunchers indicated that an increase in Hispanics voters were, in part, behind those wins. But the Census numbers suggest that didn’t translate to a significant statewide increase.

The Census estimates offer the first glimpse at a breakdown of turnout by race and ethnicity in the November election at a time when Hispanic turnout was highly anticipated to swell. But election watchers probably shouldn’t take much stock in what the 2016 numbers could mean for the upcoming midterm elections — Texas’ dismal voter turnout is even worse during non-presidential years.

Author:  ALEXA URA AND RYAN MURPHY – The Texas Tribune

Plaintiffs Want Texas Congressional Districts Redrawn for 2018

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – A group of plaintiffs is asking a federal court to force Texas to redraw the state’s current congressional district boundaries ahead of the November 2018 elections.

The three-judge panel ruled March 10 that Republicans had drawn three of the state’s congressional districts with the intent to discriminate against Latino and African-American voters.

Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a political research group, says the districts identified by the court were “torturously gerrymandered” to exclude minority voters, a process he calls “packing and cracking.”

“Republican leaders drew the maps in which they packed as many of those neighborhoods into as few districts as possible and then they cracked the rest of those neighborhoods into as many districts as possible in order to undermine their voting strength,” he states.

In its ruling, the court did not discuss any remedies to correct the problems. The plaintiffs’ motion seeks to order the Legislature to redraw the state’s current districts in time for the 2018 midterm elections.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton maintains that because the ruling pertains only to the 2011 districts, the court has no jurisdiction to order changes in the current boundaries, which went into effect in 2013.

However, Angle says the plaintiffs’ motion points out that when the Legislature redrew the districts in 2013, the three areas the court identified from 2011 were not substantially altered.

“Those districts are absolutely unchanged in the current map relative to the old map, and so you would think that the court would want to change those before we have another election,” he stresses.

The judges found that the three voided districts were drawn to minimize the impact of minority voters, particularly in Austin and San Antonio. He said one district, the 23rd, sprawls 500 miles from San Antonio to near El Paso, an area larger than many states.

“Current Republican leaders see the method for retaining their power long-term to intentionally discriminate against African-American and Latino voters, and the court has stepped in here to call them on the violations,” Angle maintains.

Plaintiffs in the case include the NAACP, Mexican American Legislative Caucus, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force and several African-American and Latino members of Congress.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

Five questions for Election Day 2016 in Texas

SAN ANTONIO — From a stage at a barbecue joint here Monday evening, Gov. Greg Abbott gestured toward the three lawmakers standing behind him and proclaimed them the “face of the current Republican Party in the great state of Texas” — and its future too.

Come Tuesday night, all three of those legislators — state Reps. Rick Galindo and John Lujan, as well as U.S. Rep. Will Hurd — could be without an immediate political future. Partly to blame: their party’s presidential nominee, whose unorthodox candidacy has shaken up the political landscape across the country, even in ruby-red Texas.

The scene, which unfolded at a get-out-the-vote rally for Hurd, spoke to one of the overarching questions heading into Election Day in Texas: What impact will Donald Trump have on this traditionally Republican state? Texas’ long-beleaguered Democrats have watched with excitement — and determination — as polls have forecasted a tighter-than-normal race for the White House in Texas.

Now they will find out if the Trump effect is just that — or a massive political mirage. Here are five questions for Election Day 2016 in Texas:

By how much will Donald Trump outpoll Hillary Clinton?

The biggest headline this election cycle in traditionally Republican Texas has been the closer-than-usual presidential contest, with many polls showing Trump beating Clinton by only single digits. A spate of recent surveys, however, has shown Trump trending toward a more traditional position for a GOP nominee in the Lone Star State, which John McCain carried by 12 points in 2008 and Mitt Romney by 16 in 2012.

Whatever the margin is Tuesday, Democrats are anticipating the closest Texas outcome in a long time, possibly since Bob Dole won the state by only five points in 1996. Garry Mauro, Clinton’s Texas chairman, touted Monday that she is “within five points” in Texas, though it was not immediately clear to which polling he was referring.

Clinton’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, summed up Democrats’ Texas outlook while visiting North Carolina on Monday.

“It’s still probably a little bit of a bridge too far this cycle, but I mean, I think you’re going to see movement in the right way,” Kaine said, according to an NBC reporter.

Republicans, meanwhile, have long dismissed the idea Clinton has a shot at Texas and, in the home stretch, maintained that Trump’s margin ultimately will not be much of an outlier compared to recent history. “I think we’re going to be in double digits in Texas,” Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler told reporters Friday.

Will Trump doom Will Hurd in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District?

In Texas’ only competitive congressional race, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, is fighting for re-election in a rematch with Pete Gallego, a Democrat from Alpine. In the predominantly Hispanic 23rd Congressional District, Trump has not made it easy on Hurd, who never endorsed the GOP nominee but only recently ruled out voting for him.

The final days of the contest have seen both sides escalating long-simmering allegations of unethical behavior, in addition to the usual wrangling over Trump. Texas Democrats, long confident presidential year turnout would boost Gallego to victory, believe Hurd did too little too late to fully denounce Trump — and voters will punish him for it Tuesday.

At the get-out-the-vote rally, Hurd fit in one last barb at Gallego, branding him a puppet for national Democrats who have poured millions of dollars into what has become one of the most expensive congressional races ever in Texas.

“Nancy Pelosi and her liberal friends are trying to buy this seat,” Hurd said, invoking the House minority leader who has served as a GOP boogeyman in the race. “My opponent is actually just kind of a side thought, to be frank.”

How many seats will Democrats pick up in the Texas House?

Democrats in the Texas House are likely to pad their minority Tuesday, though like with the presidential margin, the question is by how much. Fewer than a dozen House Republicans are in competitive races, with three to six of their seats expected to flip to Democratic control.

However many seats Democrats pick up, it will not make much of a difference in the 150-member House, where Republicans currently outnumber Democrats nearly 2-to-1. Still, when the dust settles Tuesday, the extent of Democrats’ gains in the House will offer one gauge of how difficult Trump made life for down-ballot Republicans in Texas.

“I actually believe one way or the other, it helps us up and down the ballot,” Democratic House candidate Mary Ann Perez said Monday, calling the White House race a boon to her chances of taking back House District 144. She is challenging state Rep. Gilbert Peña of Pasadena, one of the most endangered state lawmakers on the ballot Tuesday.

One little-noticed scenario going into Tuesday: Of the six Hispanic Republicans in the lower chamber, as many as four could lose their seats — two of whom, Galindo and Lujan, were onstage with Abbott in San Antonio. The two others are Peña and Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville.

Will Latinos turn out against Trump?

Part of Democrats’ hopes for Tuesday rely on something happening that usually doesn’t in Texas politics: Hispanic voters turning out in droves. While Clinton’s support among Latinos is deep, Democrats are most prominently banking on Hispanic voters showing up to cast a ballot against Trump and his hard-line immigration positions.

While the extent to which Latinos turned out in this election may not be immediately known, early voting trends offered some hints. Analysis done by Republican consultant Derek Ryan found that 19.7 percent of early voters this cycle had a Hispanic surname, up from 15.5 percent in 2012.

“I think statewide it’s probably not going to be a factor,” Ryan said Monday. “I think we’re going to see some statewide races that are closer than they have been in recent history, but I do think it could cost us some local and legislative races.” 

Among those contests: Lujan’s and Galindo’s bids for re-election in the San Antonio area. At the Monday rally, both acknowledged the volatility of their districts as they argued they were the right candidate to keep the seats in GOP hands.

“This is a seat … that flip flops every two years, the past few cycles,” Galindo said, recalling how he began block walking in late April to try to get a head start on a tough campaign. “This is something that we believe we really have a hold on. We’ve been working hard, and I believe I represent everyone.”

Does Trump change the map in Texas?

In the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama won 26 of Texas’ 254 counties. Can Clinton outdo him?

While Trump’s margin of victory is no doubt worth watching, what happens at the county level could matter more for Democrats’ long-term hopes in the Lone Star State. The biggest county to watch is Harris County, Texas’ most populous and the site of a razor-thin victory by Obama in 2012.

There is also Fort Bend County, a hugely diverse and fast-growing area southwest of Harris County. It went for Romney by seven points in 2012, a relatively close margin by Texas standards that political observers expect to tighten this time around, potentially moving the county toward true battleground status.

“It’ll be a good test of the extent of the collateral damage that Trump is inflicting on the Republican Party within the Asian-American and Latino communities,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. 

One more county to keep an eye on: Bexar County, which includes San Antonio. It is considered Democratic-leaning territory, with the GOP still being able to win some countywide races there under the right conditions. If Trump underperforms, Bexar County could emerge from Tuesday its most solid shade of blue yet. 

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Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: Welcome to the Home Stretch of the 2016 Texas Elections

Here we go.

It’s both unofficial and traditional to call Labor Day the beginning of the intense action in a general election year, and it still carries a shred of truth. The slates are set. The debates are ahead, along with most of the ads and mailers and door-to-door visits from campaign workers and candidates. Summer vacations are over. This election is on.

The political calendar from here to there is stuffed. Nov. 8 is 64 days away. Early voting starts in Texas on Oct. 24.

The first presidential debate is three weeks away, on Sept. 26. The vice presidential candidates debate a week and a day later, followed by the second presidential debate on Oct. 9. Finally, there is a third presidential debate on Oct. 19 — the Wednesday before early voting begins.

Campaigns don’t regard Labor Day as a starting place, but it marks a change for them, both in terms of who is paying attention and in what the campaigns themselves are doing.

They’ll have more fundraisers, but the folks who have spent the summer asking people for money are now in the business of asking people for votes. This is the part of the election cycle that all that money is supposed to pay for.

The Texas races are fairly low profile. It’s an off year for U.S. Senate contests here — neither John Cornyn nor Ted Cruz is at the end of a term. The attention-getting races for high statewide offices — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and so on — will be on the 2018 ballot, but not this one.

Voters will have a handful of statewide races — an open seat on the Texas Railroad Commission and three seats each on the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Every seat in the 36-member congressional delegation is on the ballot. At the moment, only one of those appears to be a close race — the 23rd congressional district, where incumbent Republican Will Hurd of San Antonio has a rematch with Pete Gallego, the Alpine Democrat he defeated two years ago.

Sixteen of the 31 state Senate seats are on the ballot, so half of us will have a senator to elect and half of us will get our chance in two years. The tough campaigns in the Senate were in the March primaries because the districts were drawn to favor one major political party or the other.

All 150 seats in the Texas House are on this year’s ballot, but again, the current redistricting maps squeeze most of the competitive juices out of the general elections. Only 53 of those contests feature candidates from both parties. If the voters there behave like they have over the past several years, they’ll send representatives from the incumbent parties back to Austin.

There are, however, nine incumbent Republicans running in districts where either party’s candidates have a real chance at victory:txtbElex Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, Cindy Burkett of Sunnyvale, Rick Galindo and John Lujan of San Antonio,Linda Koop and Kenneth Sheets of Dallas,Wayne Faircloth of Galveston, J.M. Lozano of Kingsville and Gilbert Peña of Pasadena.

None of that is gospel; it’s based on how the voters have voted in the past several elections. The candidates for president this year are interesting, in part, because both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are unpopular with large chunks of the electorate. They’re the kinds of candidates who can make voters think twice about their normal partisan behavior. If something like that were to happen, it could easily affect the state candidates downstream.

How’s that for a caveat?

The maps, along with 97 local decisions by potential candidates to stay out of the fray this year, strongly influence the likely outcomes of general elections, but there are no sure things in politics.

That’s the basis for that cliché you’ll be hearing as surveys and debates and news pop up between now and Nov. 8: The only prediction that counts is the one on Election Day.

More columns from Ross Ramsey:

  • That big political race on the surface hides a very quiet state ballot down below. In fact, a surprising number of the members of the Legislature and of the Texas delegation to Congress face no major-party opposition in November.
  • The symmetry was swell, with confirmation of Rick Perry’s appearance on “Dancing With the Stars” landing on what would have been the 72nd birthday of Molly Ivins, the state’s most famous connoisseur of political humor.
  • Nastiness and politics go together like expensive coffee and free wifi. Presidential races often prompt urges for civility. Even so, the forces of decency, propriety and good tastekinda have a point this year.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

ELECTION DAY: Texans Decide on 7 Constitutional Amendments

On Nov. 3, Texas voters will consider whether to add another seven amendments to the hundreds already in the state constitution.

The topics of the proposed amendments range from increasing property tax exemptions to repealing a requirement that state officials must live in Austin to protecting the right to hunt and fish. Early voting for the statewide measures starts Monday and ends Oct. 30.

Because of the constitution’s rigid 1876 form that restricts state government authority, the Texas Legislature regularly proposes new amendments to the constitution. Lawmakers added the proposed measures to this year’s ballot during the legislative session that ended June 1. Over the years, Texas voters have approved 484 of 666 proposed amendments to the 139-year-old constitution.

Here’s what each proposition would do.

Proposition 1

Property tax reduction

This measure would increase property tax exemptions for homeowners from $15,000 to $25,000. Homeowners would be expected to save an average of $126 a year on property tax bills.

Supporters of this amendment say it would give much-needed tax relief to Texans, especially those being priced out of homes due to rising property values. Opponents say the measure wouldn’t help homeowners enough and leaves out renters. Critics also argue that the state is shifting spending rather than truly cutting taxes. The state has committed to covering the loss of this tax revenue to school districts — an estimated cost of $600 million annually.

The amendment would also prohibit state officials from collecting taxes on real estate title transfers.

Proposition 2

Disabled veteran tax exemptions count for spouses

In 2011, Texas voters passed a constitutional amendment extending 100-percent property tax exemptions to surviving spouses of disabled veterans who have not remarried, but it did not include spouses of disabled veterans who died before Jan. 1, 2010. This amendment would expand current law to make those spouses eligible for the tax exemptions, as long as they have not remarried.

Proposition 3

Repeals capital living requirement for statewide officials

If passed, the measure would allow some statewide elected officials to live outside the state capital. The constitution currently mandates that statewide officials including the comptroller, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and attorney general live in Austin. That would no longer be the case under the proposed amendment, which does not address the governor or lieutenant governor; they are required to live in Austin.

Supporters say the requirement is outdated because of advances in transportation and technology. They also argue living in Austin is a cost that could deter Texans and their families from seeking these positions. Most other states do not have such a requirement.

Opponents to the amendment are concerned that officials might be unable to perform their duties if they don’t live in Austin and that the state may have to pay more to reimburse them for traveling expenses. Critics also worry that officials could choose to keep a different residence because they’re seeking a more favorable county court.

Proposition 4

Professional sports teams’ charitable foundations can have more raffles

Professional sports teams’ charitable foundations would be able to hold more charitable raffles and 50/50 raffles, in which half the proceeds go to a charity and half can be used for prizes, including cash for a winner. Under current law, cash prizes cannot be awarded and raffles are limited to two times a year. Any unauthorized raffle is considered gambling, which is highly regulated in the state.

Proposition 5

Small counties can perform private road maintenance

The proposed amendment would raise the population limit — to 7,500 people, from 5,000 — for counties where the government can perform road construction. Supporters of the bill say this would help growing rural communities and ensure safety. Others say county construction on private roads should include all counties, as long as private homeowners agree to pay the county.

Proposition 6

Guarantees Texans the right to hunt and fish

The proposed amendment would give Texans the explicit right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife. Texans can already hunt and fish, but this amendment is a preventive measure from any possible legislative action that could limit the right. Supporters are worried about possible pressure from animal rights or environmental groups.

The amendment says hunting and fishing is the preferred way for Texans to maintain and conserve wildlife. Critics say that could cause confusion about endangered, threatened or non-game species, some of which are protected by federal and state laws.

Proposition 7

Dedicates more state revenue to the State Highway Fund

With this proposed amendment, the state would dedicate some taxes collected on car sales for the State Highway Fund. That fund is used to maintain and construct public roadways and bridges in the state and decrease transportation-related bond debt.

Specifically, if the state sales and use tax revenue reaches $28 billion, the state comptroller would be directed to use additional money, up to $2.5 billion, for the highway fund. Also, the comptroller could use 35 percent of tax revenue from state motor vehicle sales, use and rental tax revenue that exceeds $5 billion for the same fund.

The amendment would limit the time for money being taken from the state’s sales and use tax revenue to 10 years. It would also limit the deposit of state sales and use tax revenue to 15 years unless extended by the Legislature. The Legislature would be able to reduce the amount of the taxes used with a vote from two-thirds of both chambers.

Opponents say funneling funds directly to Texas roads would take money away from other expenses in the state budget, such as education. They argue legislators should determine how much money should be spent on transportation each session. Supporters say that this move would decrease Texas’ debt and ensure a consistent source of funds for transportation needs.

Author: by Luqman Adeniyi – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

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