This November’s Election Day will presumably be much more sedate than 2016’s was. With no national elections on the ballot, far fewer people are expected to show up to cast votes than did the day Donald Trump was elected president.
But those that do show up will have the choice to vote on changes to the Texas Constitution. There are seven proposed amendments on the ballot this year. Here’s a quick primer on what they do:
Prop. 1: Creates a homestead exemption for disabled veterans whose homes were partially donated. Supporters of the proposition say it fixes an unintended consequence in current law — veterans who receive fully donated homes don’t have to pay a tax. Opponents say the proposal continues a pattern of giving tax exemptions to specialized groups.
Prop. 2: Revises home equity loan provisions. Supporters say the amendment would make home equity loans more accessible and lower costs for borrowers. It would lower fees and allow different kinds of refinancing. Opponents say loosening restrictions means fewer protections for consumers.
Prop. 3: Limiting terms for certain appointees of the governor. The proposition would stop gubernatorial appointees from continuing their duties after the end of their terms. This might prevent some people who serve on volunteer boards or commissions from collecting travel or other expenses. The change could leave some positions unfilled, though, if qualified new people can’t immediately fill a vacated seat.
Prop. 4: Requiring notice to the attorney general of challenges to state laws. Right now, when a person challenges the constitutionality of state laws in court, the state attorney general’s office is not required to be notified, which supporters of the amendment say could stop the office from defending the state’s position. Opponents say the state courts should not be required to report to a different branch of government.
Prop. 5: Allows charitable raffles to be held at more Texas sporting events, including minor league baseball games and pro golf tournaments. It would allow potentially more money and attention for some charities, but some say it amounts to an expansion of gambling in the state.
Prop. 6: Like Prop. 1, it would create a homestead exemption, this time for the surviving spouse of a first responder killed in the line of duty. Again, opponents of the proposition say it’s a tax exemption for a special group and that the real focus should be on comprehensive property tax reform.
Prop. 7: This proposition would allow banks to hold raffles to encourage people to open and use savings account. In some states, banks give raffle tickets to customers who perform certain actions, like making a deposit. At the end of a time period, the bank rewards some customers with a prize. Prop. 7 would legalize the concept in Texas, although some worry about carving out an exception of state laws for just one industry.
More detailed information about the proposed amendments is available from the Texas House Research Organization. Early voting starts Monday. Election Day is Nov. 7.
U.S. Rep. Randy Weber joined 15 other members of Congress in calling for Robert Mueller, the man investigating President Donald Trump‘s connections with Russia, to testify before Congress.
In a letter sent to the House and Senate’s judiciary committees Oct. 13, the group called for Mueller to answer for alleged conflicts of interest on his investigative team.
“The team has sweeping authority and an open-ended mission, yet they are allowed to operate largely in secret, selected by and ultimately accountable to only one person: Mr. Mueller himself,” the letter states.
Some Republicans, including Trump, have criticized Mueller’s team, because some of the investigators donated to Democratic candidates in the past.
Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In an open letter sent Tuesday by three candidates for the Galveston Independent School District board of trustees, Laura Addison, Sandra Tetley and Beau Rawlins said they did not want to participate in a candidates forum at Central Middle School.
The group said the proposed panelists were potentially biased against them, and complained that the location was not in one of the two districts that are up for election this year. Both districts 5E and 6F represent areas west of 61st Street.
“Why would anyone choose a venue as far away from our voters as possible?” the letter states.
But today, Addison, who is running against school board President Matthew Hay, is holding a meet and greet at The Lasker Inn. The inn is about four minutes east of Central Middle School, in GISD District 3C.
On Wednesday evening, Addison said the out-of-district meet-and-greet is a “unique situation” because the space was being offered to her for free by a supporter.
“I’m simply providing a service to anyone that’s interested in talking to me about the issues,” Addison said. “Lot’s of people work at UTMB and live all over the island. At 5 o’clock they can stop on their way home.”
WEBER LOAN PROGRAM
U.S. Rep. Randy Weber introduced a bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Energy from offering government-backed loans for energy projects.
The loan program became infamous after the failure of Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt in 2011 after receiving a $535 million loan from the department. By 2014, however, the program had begun turning a profit from interests charged on the loans.
In September, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the Energy Department would provide another $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to help complete three nuclear reactors in Georgia. The department has already given $8.3 billion to that project.
Weber said that his bill would stop the government from “picking winners and losers.”
“The Department of Energy is a research and development institution, not a venture capitalist,” Weber said. “DOE’s controversial program to provide taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to private energy companies skews the market and stifles innovation.”
Texas House District 23 candidate Mayes Middleton announced Tuesday that he had donated $100,000 to Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in Galveston and Chambers Counties. ... Former White House strategist, and Breitbart executive chairman, Steve Bannon says he plans a “war” against sitting Republican senators in upcoming elections, save for one person: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. ... U.S. Rep. Randy Weber is one of 28 members of Congress to join the new NASA, a group of legislators that aims to promote and advocate for the space agency.