November 5, 2013 Texas Constitutional Amendment Election Voter’s guide

(plus some commentary on some of the Travis County Joint General and Special Elections)
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 member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.”

Please vote FOR Proposition 1.
“So sorry your husband had his head cut off by the taliban, and too bad he was the primary breadwinner. Good luck at the auction when your house goes on sale for failure to pay property taxes after he died and you could barely afford food. Love, Texas”

Prop. 2
“The constitutional amendment eliminating an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational.”

Please vote AGAINST Proposition 2.
These agencies are defunct. Their purpose was never really served, and now they are nobody doing nothing. The only reason I can think this even made it to the ballot is some legislator’s brother in-law got the $108,921 contract the State paid to print the resolution.

Prop. 3
“The constitutional amendment to authorize a political subdivision of this state to extend the number of days that aircraft parts that are exempt from ad valorem taxation due to their location in this state for a temporary period may be located in this state for purposes of qualifying for the tax exemption.”

Please vote AGAINST Proposition 3.

At first blush, to me this sounded like a sop for big aircraft business without good reason to the taxpayer. On second thought I am reminded that “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.” If the ‘you kept this in our state too long’ tax is such a bad idea, repeal it. Carve-outs for one special interest are hardly compatible with the spirit of republican government (note the small ‘r”)

Prop. 4
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization.”

Please vote FOR Proposition 4.
“Thanks for your service! Sorry about your legs and arm! We’re so happy HGTV donated you a new house with all the medical assistance appliances you will need to live an independent life, truly. Yes, we know you barely get enough disability money to buy groceries, but you know spending LESS is never an option for government. Soooo we’re just going to sell your house at auction because you can’t afford the taxes on it. Love, Texas.”

Prop. 5
“The constitutional amendment to authorize the making of a reverse mortgage
loan for the purchase of homestead property and to amend lender disclosures and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan.”

Please vote FOR Proposition 5.
‘All the cool states are doing it’ is not good enough reason to change our Constitution. ‘It makes life easier’ is also not. ‘It saves seniors on closing costs’ is none of the business of the State as well as a dubious proposition. The thing is, these people didn’t get to live this long by being stupid. Yes, you can lose your shirt (and the closet it hangs in) on a bad mortgage. That’s why you use a Realtor and read your mortgage before signing it. “I have read and understood the foregoing” is not just a placeholder to go above your signature. Let the old people get effectively-free housing if a bank will make the loan. Go for it.

Prop. 6
“The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.”

Please vote AGAINST Proposition 6.
Yes we need water. No, this is not the way to fund it. We have spent all of 6% of SIX billion dollars we set aside for this purpose already. This sounds awfully like a $2B slush-fund to me! Do you really want another taxing body over you? Do you really want them taxing well water? Do you really want to dip into the pile of money we set aside for stuff like hurricane recovery, to pay for stuff that benefits private entities, OUTSIDE the normal requirements of the balanced budget process? I sure don’t.

Prop. 7
“The constitutional amendment authorizing 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.”

Please vote AGAINST Proposition 7.
Yes, elections are a hassle. Yes they are expensive. Yes it is short notice. Also, yes it prevents croneyism and nepotism. You can’t appoint your brother in-law to the committee if elections are required to fill the vacancy left by your uncle. Think how much bad stuff the government of your imagination could vote for in a YEAR. Then think about those people being on your city council, voting to take away your money for a year to fund butterfly parks run by their brothers in-law. The democratic process should not involve nominations for a YEAR term to elected positions.

Prop. 8
“The constitutional amendment repealing Section 7, Article IX, Texas Constitution, which relates to the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County.”

Please vote FOR Proposition 8.
You want to help the working poor by increasing their hospital district taxes by 650%? Where do I sign up? You want to help the University of Texas, currently sitting on Billions of dollars, to have access to federal money to build a hospital they could fund out of pocket? Why not? I mean, after all, nobody really pays taxes they just give away free money right? Right? On the other hand, this puts control where it belongs: the voters of Hidalgo County get to choose whether or not to increase their taxes. If they’re that stupid, or if they consider it to be worth their money . . . let them sort it out. Maybe they’ll decide they want a hospital district to get more of their money than it currently does.

Prop. 9
“The constitutional amendment relating to expanding 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.”

Please vote AGAINST Proposition 9.
This measure sounds tough on bad judges but actually would lessen the punishment that might be given, which if you want to be hard on bad judges is rather the opposite of the way we should be going.

***

The sharpest among you will note that I have advocated doing away with unjust laws above by both eliminating and creating carve-outs. The difference is nuanced. In the case of property taxes, you are taking what someone needs to keep themselves off the street and may not otherwise be able to afford. In the instance of aircraft parts, the only apparent beneficiary is somebody trying to set up an airplane repair facility or parts depot. Nobody needs to do this to keep from dying of exposure. If you can’t afford the inventory tax, lobby the legislature for a repeal and keep the parts in Louisiana, Arkansas, or New Mexico. None of those is more than a day’s flight away, and there is ZERO additional tax exposure when you keep your parts in a remote facility. There is a NON-ZERO chance that the State will turn some poor widow or quadriplegic combat veteran out on the street because they can’t afford taxed since their life took a horrible recent turn for the worse. State taking your house: bad. State helping you observe currently-reasonable business practices: good.

***
Proposition, City of Austin
The issuance of $65,000,000 affordable housing bonds and notes for constructing, renovating, improving, and equipping affordable housing for low income persons and families; acquiring land and interests in land and property necessary to do so; and funding affordable housing programs as may be permitted by law; and the levy of a tax sufficient to pay for the bonds and notes.

The city keeps bringing this up, and it is about the only bond measure in recent memory the voters refuse to approve. Disapprove it again. You don’t want to give $50 out of your wallet right now, and ought not to be forced to give it in your property taxes later.

Propositions 1 through 4, City of Round Rock
I’m for all of these. Round rock seems less wasteful than nearby communities *ahem*austin*ahem* and their proposals seem like reasonable things for cities to tax people to do.

Proposition, Marble Falls Independent School District
The issuance of $6,550,000 school building bonds for the construction, acquisition, and equipment of school buildings in the District (including the rehabilitation, renovation, expansion and improvement thereof), and levying of the tax in payment thereof
Marble Falls ISD seems to have their head on straight, to include NOT raising their tax rate this year. This proposal is actually a way to SAVE money. They’d probably go for it anyway, but because of the silly way schools are funded in Texas it would be like issuing bonds at 46% interest if they raised school taxes to pay for these expenditures.
Proposition No. 1, Travis County Emergency Services District No. 4
The increase in the rate of the local sales and use tax imposed by Travis County Emergency Services District No. 4 from one percent to two percent.

Alright, this one is just plain koo-koo. They are asking if YOU want to pay DOUBLE your current level of taxes. ESD 4 is scattered all over the county in isolated pockets around the northern part of Austin. So in a half-dozen random little enclaves of the greater Austin area, there will be higher taxes charged for everything you buy. Sure, why not. Pennies from Heaven for everybody!

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