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Groups post guides on constitutional amendments before voters

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With early voting underway Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFFR) and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) have created guides for voters to better understand the ten constitutional amendments listed as propositions 1-10 on the ballot.

In order to become part of the state constitution, voters must approve the amendments by a simple majority.

TFFR takes issue with propositions 2, 6 and 8, arguing voters should oppose them.

TPPF provides pros and cons for all amendments and cites bill analysis and constitutional documents in its descriptions, and does not take a position on any of them.

Proposition 2 allows the Texas Water Development Board to issue additional general obligation bonds for water development projects. The amendment essentially would create another constitutionally dedicated fund and increase the size of government and the board’s debt burden, according to TFFR.

If approved, the Legislative Budget Board estimates that the issuance of new state debt will “have a negative impact of about $3.5 million to general revenue related funds through fiscal 2020-21.”

“State-subsidized debt serves as a disincentive to properly prioritizing spending and distorts market forces,” TFFR says in opposing the measure.

Proposition 6 increases the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas’ maximum bonding authority by authorizing the state to issue $3 billion worth of bonds and go into debt to fund cancer research.

“While well-intentioned, CPRIT has not been a good steward of taxpayer dollars and cancer research is not a core function of government,” TFFR argues. Approving this would make cancer research part of the state constitution.

The estimated two-year net impact to general revenue related funds is estimated at $12.5 million through August 31, 2021, TPPF notes. And, according to the Legislative Budget Board, “Currently, CPRIT has $150 million in un-appropriated bond authority and $286 million in unexpended previously appropriated authority that has gone unencumbered available for the 2020-21 biennium” (HJR 12 Fiscal Note, 2).

Proposition 8 creates a flood infrastructure fund, using appropriations from the economic stabilization fund. It would create another dedicated fund outside of the regular appropriations process, or as TFFR put it, debt subsidized by the state. Subsidizing debt provides a disincentive for the state to “properly prioritize spending and distorts market forces,” TFFR argues.

The 86th Texas Legislature filed more than 7,300 separate pieces of legislation during its 140-day regular session between January 8 and May 27, 2019. Roughly 1,400 of them became law. The Legislature also voted on 10 amendments of which seven originated from the House and three from the Senate.

TFFR states it’s neutral on Proposition 1, and supports propositions 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10.

Proposition 1 permits an elected municipal judge to hold office in more than one town at the same time. Appointed judges already are able to hold more than one office due to limited resources and lack of qualified candidates.

Article 16, Section 40 of the Texas Constitution expressly forbids a person from holding more than one paid elected office at the same time, with certain exceptions, TPPF points out. Appointed and elected municipal court judges are held to different standards.

Proposition 3 allows the Legislature to offer temporary property tax exemptions for persons owning property in an area that was declared a disaster area by the governor.

Proposition 4 prohibits the state from imposing or collecting an individual income tax.

Proposition 5 dedicates state tax revenue from the sporting goods sales tax to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

Proposition 7 allows increased distributions to the Available School Fund.

Proposition 9 authorizes the Legislature to create a property tax exemption for precious metals held in Texas depositories.

Proposition 10 allows a state agency or political subdivision to transfer a retired law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker under certain circumstances.