Students should vote on seven proposed changes to the Texas Constitution

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Students line up to vote outside the Flawn Academic Center on Nov. 4, 2014.
Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

While this year’s Election Day does not involve any campaigns for prominent national or state-level offices, Texans should still pay attention to the state issues on the ballot on Nov. 3. Not all of the seven propositions are flashy, controversial or even legally relevant, but they will all play a role in shaping Texas’s future political landscape.

Proposition 1 would lower the tax that Texas residents pay to the public school system. How much homeowners would save depends on their respective districts’ tax rate, but the average is between $120 and $130. Individual schools would then apply for supplementary funding from the Foundation School Fund, which offers monetary aid to schools in poorer districts. Prop. 1 will look good to conservatives focused on lowering their taxes but could hinder public schools that already receive scant funding from their districts. It might not affect UT students, but it has the power to negatively affect our family members’ futures if public schools do not have the funds to offer appropriate resources. 

Proposition 2 seeks to fix a mistake in 2011’s Proposition 1, which granted spouses of deceased veterans a homestead exemption on property taxes if their partners died after Jan. 1, 2010. This proposition will give all spouses of deceased veterans the homestead exemption, regardless of when they died. The initial proposition passed with over 80 percent in favor — this year’s Proposition 2 should pass just as easily.

Proposition 3 proposes to eliminate the requirement for at-large elected state officials to reside in Austin while in office, such as the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and others, which would revoke a 139-year-old requirement. Currently, at-large officials would be prosecuted by the district attorney of Travis County in any legal disputes, but this would change. Proponents believe this change will prevent too much power from resting with the Travis County DA, while opponents argue this could allow unfair trials in cases of inner county corruption. Prop. 3 is an unnecessary change, even a dangerous one. Keeping state officials in Austin keeps government central. But more importantly, there is no evidence that the Travis County DA wields too much power, while Prop. 3’s passage risks corrupting officials’ trials.

Proposition 4 is an extension of 1989’s Proposition 15, which allowed nonprofit organizations to hold charitable raffles at their events. Prop. 4 extends this right to a number of professional sports leagues, including the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS and NHL, and allows them to hold raffles at their home courts. This proposition could help raise a significant amount of money for charity in a relatively simple way.

Under current state law, counties with fewer than 5,000 people can commission road construction and maintenance from the private sector, instead of doing so from public funds. Proposition 5 would extend that right to an additional 20 counties by bumping the population limit up to 7,500. Its passage would save the state money while providing construction jobs in rural areas. But like any law that lets the government choose a private company to maintain a public service, it risks facilitating corruption.

Proposition 6 seeks to enshrine the rights to fish, hunt and harvest in the Texas constitution. Its rationale is the false claim — issued by the State Senate’s Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee — that federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act threaten the longstanding Texan tradition of conserving wildlife by killing wildlife. Critics argue that state laws can’t supersede federal policy. But that hasn’t stopped Prop 6’s maverick supporters from fighting on — mainly because none of the activities they seek to protect are under any sort of legal threat. That renders the whole initiative a functionally irrelevant exercise in NRA-sponsored Lone Star chest-thumping. Sic semper tyrannis.

Proposition 7 would increase the funding supplied to the government-run State Highway Fund that helps pay for highway improvement projects. If passed, the additional funding will come from the both the sales and use tax and the state motor vehicle sales and rental tax. At face value, the proposition is funding positive infrastructure changes but has the power to give the legislature control over billions of more dollars.