This introduction from Susan Valliant: We Texans will soon be voting on 14 state constitutional amendments. The following analysis and recommendations comes to us from the True Texas Project. Fran Rhodes, President, was the author of the analysis. I added very little to her commentary because I agreed with 99% of what she said. The changes I made was voting FOR Teachers Retirement. She was NEUTRAL and adding “spending bill” to some of the Amendments, so people would be informed of where their money was going if it passed. Texas has a balanced budget amendment in our constitution and the only way to get around that balanced budget is to have Legislators pet spending projects put into Amendments. People like voting FOR something more than voting AGAINST something, so they word the Amendments in their favor. For example, if you look at the Wealth Tax Amendment they used the word PROHIBIT in the Amendment so we would vote FOR the Amendment, which is what they want because it affects them and their donors, and we don’t really want a Wealth tax in our state either, but, many socialist Democrats would. I suspect the Amendment was introduced by a Democrat which is why it made the Amendment list. Just my 2 cents. Fran deserves all the credit. She did a great job. She published her interpretations on their True Texas Project website.
In November, Texans will go to the polls and vote on 14 constitutional amendments. BEWARE! Seven of those will cost Texans a LOT of money and is wasteful spending. This is the legislature’s way of breaking the constitutional spending limits. The 2023 budget that was passed by both chambers is the largest increase in spending in Texas history. If these 7 amendments pass it will add $12 billion to that total.
- Early Voting: Monday, October 23, 2023 thru Friday, November 3, 2023
- Election Day: Tuesday, November,7 2023
- FOR: HJR 126 – “Protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture & wildlife management.” Protects farmers and ranchers from local government land grabs through city ordinances. Food production must be protected.
- AGAINST: SJR 64 – “Authorizing local option exemption from ad valorem taxation by county/municipality of or part of the appraised real property used to operate a child-care facility.” Local government having favorites, picking winners and losers.
- FOR: HJR 132 – “Prohibiting the imposition of an individual wealth or net worth tax of an individual or family.” Penalizing citizens who are successful. Wealth tax.
- FOR: HJR2 – “Establish a temporary limitation on maximum appraised value of real property other than residence homestead for ad valorem tax purposes.” Very little, short-lived tax relief. Better than nothing.
- AGAINST: HJR3 – “Texas University Fund, provide funding institutions higher education to achieve national prominence as major research.” Taxpayer’s already fund $$$Billlions to Universities for research and they have become primarily leftist indoctrination meccas.
- AGAINST: SJR75 – “Create Texas water fund to assist financing water projects.” This bill will cost taxpayers $1B when they already spend money financing water project that are not solving the problem.
- AGAINST: SJR93- “Create Texas energy fund to build more electric plants.” Will cost taxpayers and additional $5B, they already spending $6B per year. Government picking winners and losers.
- AGAINST: HJR125 – “Create broadband infrastructure fund to expand access. Will cost taxpayers $1.5B Government interfering the markets and promoting corporate welfare and crony capitalism.
- FOR: HJR2 – “Authorize 88th session to provide cost-of-living adjustment to Teacher’s Retirement System.
- AGAINST: SJR87 – “Exempt from ad valorem taxation equipment/inventory held by a manufacturer of medical or biomedical products.” More of a taxpayer burden by exempting medical manufacturers from paying taxes. Government picking winners and losers.
- AGAINST: SJR32 – “Permit conservation & reclamation districts in El Paso county for park and recreation.” This would allow El Paso Co. to increase taxes for parks with new bonds.
- FOR: HJR134 – “Abolish the office of county treasurer in Galveston Co.” 1 less govt. position means less govt. intrusion.
- AGAINST: HJR107 – “increase the mandatory age of retirement for state justices and judges from 75 to 79. Judges could retire in their 80’s if they are reelected at age 78 for 4 yr term, currently they cannot serve past 75. .
- AGAINST: SJR74 – “Create centennial parks conservation fund for state parks.” Another spending bill. This bill is an excuse to spend more money without having to show it in the budget.
Proposition 1 – HJR 126 “The constitutional amendment protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management.”
Cost to Taxpayers: According to the TLO fiscal analysis, there has no fiscal implications other than cost of publication.
Vote Recommendation: FOR– This amendment would protect farmers and ranchers, whose land falls within municipal jurisdictions, from being forced out of business by overreaching municipal ordinances. Many municipal governments have abused their authority. Food production must be protected. (Note: in another state, this type of amendment was defeated by the leftist green activists who are happy to end farming and ranching to protect the environment).
Proposition 2 – SJR 64 “The constitutional amendment authorizing a local option exemption from ad valorem taxation by a county or municipality of all or part of the appraised value of real property used to operate a child-care facility.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment has no fiscal implications to the state other than the cost of publication. However, it does have fiscal implications for cities and counties who adopt the exemption. This amendment allows cities and counties to exempt appraisal values of childcare facilities from property taxes.
Vote Recommendation – AGAINST – exempting certain types of businesses from taxes puts a greater burden on the remaining taxpayers. Exemptions like this have governments having favorites, picking winners and losers.
Proposition 3 – HJR 132 “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual wealth or net worth tax, including a tax on the difference between the assets and liabilities of an individual or family.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment will prevent the legislature from imposing wealth tax on individuals or families.
Vote Recommendation – FOR – we would always be opposed to a wealth tax. Texans are already taxed at every level of earning and spending, and a wealth tax would be a tax on success.
Proposition 4 – HJR 2 from the second special session “The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to establish a temporary limit on the maximum appraised value of real property other than a residence homestead for ad valorem tax purposes; to increase the amount of the exemption from ad valorem taxation by a school district applicable to residence homesteads from $40,000 to $100,000; to adjust the amount of the limitation on school district ad valorem taxes imposed on the residence homesteads of the elderly or disabled to reflect increases in certain exemption amounts; to except certain appropriations to pay for ad valorem tax relief from the constitutional limitation on the rate of growth of appropriations; and to authorize the legislature to provide for a four-year term of office for a member of the board of directors of certain appraisal districts.”
Cost to Taxpayers This is the “tax relief” bill from 2nd special session. It contains 4 parts: (1) temporary limit on appraisal value of non-homesteaded properties; (2) increase homestead exemptions for school taxes to $100,000; (3) exempt certain appropriations to pay for tax relief from the constitutional growth limitation; and (4) authorizes the legislature to put a 4-year term limit in office for a member of the board of certain appraisal districts.
Vote Recommendation – FOR – This tax relief bill will provide very little, very short-lived tax relief, which will quickly be eaten up by inflation, appraisal increases, and governments’ reluctance to control spending and lower tax rates. But since some tax relief is better than none, recommend voting FOR.
Proposition 5 – HJR 3 “The constitutional amendment relating to the Texas University Fund, which provides funding to certain institutions of higher education to achieve national prominence as major research universities and drive the state economy.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment will cost about $208 million the first year (taken from the rainy-day fund), and then about $100 million per year after that.
Vote Recommendation – AGAINST –Spending bill We already fund higher education by billions each year, and they have become primarily leftist indoctrination meccas.
Proposition 6 – SJR 75 “The constitutional amendment creating the Texas water fund to assist in financing water projects in this state.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment will cost taxpayers $1 Billion.
Vote Recommendation – AGAINST – This is one of the “fund” amendments to keep spending off-budget. The state is already spending money on financing water projects and not solving the problem.
Proposition 7 – SJR 93 “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the Texas energy fund to support the construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment will cost taxpayers $5 Billion.
Vote Recommendation – AGAINST – Spending bill. This fund would incentivize construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities. It provides loans and grants to electric generating companies, picking winners & losers. We already subsidize renewable and traditional electric generation with about $6 Billion per year.
Proposition 8 – HJR 125 “The constitutional amendment creating the broadband infrastructure fund to expand high-speed broadband access and assist in the financing of connectivity projects.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment will cost taxpayers $1.5 Billion.
Vote Recommendation – AGAINST – Spending bill. This amendment is corporate welfare and crony capitalism and government interference in markets.
Proposition 9 – HJR 2, regular session “The constitutional amendment authorizing the 88th Legislature to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to certain annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment will cost taxpayers $5 Billion
Provides a cost-of-living adjustment to the teachers who are receiving retirement benefits who haven’t received an increase since 2000.
Vote Recommendation – FOR – Everyone likes teachers! It’s hard to say no to helping them cope with inflation, but it will cost the state billions.
Proposition 10 – SJR 87 “The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation equipment or inventory held by a manufacturer of medical or biomedical products to protect the Texas healthcare network and strengthen our medical supply chain.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment will cost taxpayers $29 million in the first 2 years, then approximately $40 million annually. This amendment grants property tax exemptions to a certain industry – medical supply equipment.
Vote Recommendation – AGAINST – exempting certain types of businesses from taxes puts a greater burden on the remaining taxpayers. Exemptions like this have governments picking winners and losers.
Proposition 11 – SJR 32 “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.”
Cost to Taxpayers: It potentially could have a financial impact on the citizens of El Paso County in the form of higher property taxes to support bonds.
In 2003, the constitution was amended, giving conservation & reclamation districts in certain counties the ability to issue bonds for parks and recreation. El Paso was not included, so this amendment adds El Paso County to the counties enumerated in the legislation.
Vote Recommendation – AGAINST – we generally oppose all bonds, and this amendment would provide additional capacity for El Paso County to increase taxes to fund parks and recreation facilities with new bonds.
Proposition 12 – HJR 134 “The constitutional amendment providing for the abolition of the office of county treasurer in Galveston County.”
Cost to Taxpayers: Galveston County anticipates savings if the amendment passes. This amendment would abolish the position of County Treasurer in Galveston County, which was requested by the current County Treasurer of Galveston County in the last campaign. In order for the amendment to pass, it needs not only a majority vote of the whole State, but also a majority vote in Galveston County.
Vote Recommendation – FOR – The current Treasurer campaigned on a promise to eliminate his position, which prompted this legislative action. One less government position means less government.
Proposition 13 – HJR 107 “The constitutional amendment to increase the mandatory age of retirement for state justices and judges.”
Cost to Taxpayers: Indeterminate, since we cannot know how many judges would elect to serve longer. This amendment raises the current mandatory retirement age for State Justices and Judges from 75 to 79.
Vote Recommendation –AGAINST– The legislation says “expiration of the term during which the incumbent reaches the age of 79 years or such earlier age, not less than 75 years”. As a result, some judges could serve into their 80’s because it says “term in which they reach 79”, not retire “at” 79. The beginning of a 4-year term the judge could be 78. Extending the retirement age is a roadblock for young attorneys challenging long-term incumbent judges.
Proposition 14 – SJR 74 “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the centennial parks conservation fund to be used for the creation and improvement of state parks.”
Cost to Taxpayers: This amendment will cost taxpayers $1 Billion.
Vote Recommendation – AGAINST – Spending bill. There are other ways to create and improve state parks. This amendment is just an excuse to spend more money without having it show up in the budget.
|Amendments||FOR or AGAINST||Amendments||FOR or AGAINST|
|Proposition 1 Farming and ranching||FOR||Proposition 8 Broadband expansion – spending bill||AGAINST|
|Proposition 2 Property tax exemptions for childcare facilities||AGAINST||Proposition 9 Increase retired teachers salary||FOR|
|Proposition 3 Opposes wealth tax – taxing success||FOR||Proposition 10 Property tax exempt medical supply||AGAINST|
|Proposition 4 Property tax relief||FOR||Proposition 11 Park improvements in El Paso||AGAINST|
|Proposition 5 University Fund – spending bill||AGAINST||Proposition 12 Abolish Cnty treasurer in Galveston||FOR|
|Proposition 6 Water Fund (already funded with no results) – spending bill||AGAINST||Proposition 13 Increase age limit for Judges to 79||AGAINST|
|Proposition 7 Loans and grants to electric companies – spending bill||AGAINST||Proposition 14 State Parks improvement fund – spending bill||AGAINST|
Dissolving Countywide Polling Place Program
In 2018 the Tarrant County Commissioners voted to participate in the Countywide Polling Place Program (CPPP) as stated in the Texas Election Code Section 43.007. The Countywide Voting Program was designed to make it easier for voters to vote by increasing the accessibility to the Voting Centers. However, there were reports from news sources in 2019 that many citizens of Tarrant County had concerns about the integrity of our elections with countywide voting. Tarrant County has had ten elections, both municipal, county and state elections, since participating in the Countywide Polling Place Program, so we have ample information to evaluate the use of Voting Centers in our county.
In the Texas Tribune in 2019, County Clerks and Election Administrators told the public that countywide voting would stop disenfranchising thousands of Texas voters. (1) The article suggests, voters could vote at any Voting Center in the county, and would not be turned away because they were in the wrong designated Precinct Polling Place, and this would boost turn out rates across the state. However, according to the Tarrant County Elections Cumulative Reports the evidence is to the contrary. The results of the Cumulative Report for the general midterm election in 2018 showed 39,415 more voters cast their ballots in Precinct Voting Places, than they did in 2022 with Countywide Voting Centers, even with an increase of 126,516 voter registrations from 2018 to 2022. (See Tarrant County 2014 – 2022 elections handout) Two of the Commissioner Districts in Tarrant County, Commissioner’s District 1 and 2, had a significant decrease in voter turnout in 2022 compared to 2018, in spite of the increase in voter registrations. (See Commissioner Court differences by Zip Code and by Precinct). Moreover, this phenomenon was not unique to Tarrant County. There were several other large counties in Texas that experienced the same issue. (See
Multicounty report of 2014 to 2022 election handout).
Another problem identified in the CPPP is the secret ballot. Our ballots are supposed to be private, but are they really? Let me illustrate the issue: a Voter is required to check-in at the Voting Center prior to receiving their ballot and casting their vote, the voter then takes their ballot to the DuoScan, chooses their candidates then prints their ballot. The information printed on the ballot, along with the voters chosen candidates, is a QR code (that it unidentifiable to the public) and the voter’s Precinct number. Moreover, the Secretary of State publishes on their website the voter’s name and the Voting Center where the voter cast their ballot, if a voter cast their ballot at a Voting Center outside of their precinct, then their vote can be easily tracked by the precinct number on the ballot. This opens the door for the public to know exactly how the voter voted. The public can look up the voter’s name and Voting Center on the website, go to the
Central Election office and locate the Voting Center’s ballot box, find the ballot with the voter’s ballot by precinct number, and now, the public knows how, when and where the voter voted. How many people vote outside of their precinct area? Does this not violate Election Code 1.0015 Legislative intent to protect the secrecy of the ballot?
In addition, Countywide voting requires a MiFi connection at the Voting Center so the electronic Poll books can verify the voter’s registration from anywhere in the county. Although, there is an air gap (security feature) in the system, many researchers and computer technicians state the system is not fool proof, leaving our elections vulnerable to cyberattacks. (2) Moreover, in 2016 the elections became a part of the Department of Homeland Security infrastructure. “A collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission, foreign companies and their private partners, allow for real-time monitoring of all election data.” (3) This has led to a decrease in the voter’s confidence that our elections are safe and secure.
The next issue identified with the CPPP is the disproportionate number of votes cast at the Voting Centers. During the November 2022 election there were 10 Voting Centers that had over 1,500 votes cast and 6 Voting Centers that had less than 100. (See Disproportionate Chart) Is this the best use of our resources and money in our elections? Precinct Voting has a relatively even distribution of voters with only two Polling Places that had 1,020 voters.
To continue, in the 2022 general election the Ft. Worth ISD transported busloads of students to Voting Centers to vote for the first time. Several of the students had not registered to vote because they were not of voting age or they did not complete the registration 30 days prior to the election. This caused a lot of unnecessary chaos and confusion at the voting center, not to mention embarrassment for the students who could not vote because they did not qualify. This type of activity could not occur with Precinct voting.
Finally, with the CPPP the ability to audit any election or identify any issues at a Voting Center after the election becomes very difficult. The Countywide Voting Center’s ID number is NOT printed on the ballot, only the voter’s precinct number and a QR code (the Voting Center is not embedded in the QR code according to the previous Election Administrator, Heider Garcia) are printed on the ballot. According to the Texas House Bill 5180 passed in 2023, public inspection shall begin 61 days after an election. For 60 days after the election the ballots are stored in a ballot box according to the Voting Center number, however, after 60 days the ballots are combined into storage boxes and sent to a storage facility. The only way to identify the Voting Center ballots is with the Election Judge’s signature that is on the ballots. The public would have to examine each ballot and separate them by Election Judge to figure out which Voting Center had the issues. It is a very arduous and time-consuming process to tie the ballots to the Voting Center and reconcile the results with the Secretary of State because the Secretary of State post the results by Voting Center. Also not all candidates run for countywide positions making it difficult to perform a candidate’s recount, at their request. Instead of going to the Precinct location where the candidate is running in that district, all the Voting Center’s ballot boxes would have to be opened and all ballots inspected for that candidate because ALL Voting Centers have the potential of having that candidates votes.
In conclusion, dissolving the Countywide Polling Place Program and returning to Precinct Polling Places would restore the public’s confidence by securing our elections and our ballots in a designated precinct, eliminating the uncertainty that our votes count in countywide voting centers. Precinct Voting Places are a more controlled environment for elections and they are easier to perform public audits. If voters trust our elections are fair and transparent then voter turnout will improve. Our vote is our voice and it is the bedrock of our democratic system, therefore, it is incumbent upon us to protect and preserve the privilege granted to us in the Constitution.
1. Ura, Alexa, July 25, 2019. Texas countywide voting could address a major hurdle | The Texas
Tribune. The Texas Tribune website
2. Hoffman, Chris. Sep. 3, 2020. The Ultimate Defense: What Is an Air Gapped Computer?
(howtogeek.com). How-To Geek website
3. Fetzer, James. August 16, 2023. Report: Engineers Discover Nationwide Cellular Network Connects Election Equipment and Gives Federal Government Access to Election Systems at Precinct Level.