Voter Registration Deadline for the Harris or Galveston County March 3 Primary Election

January 15th, 2020

The deadline to register to vote or update name or address information for the Harris or Galveston County March 3 Primary Election is Feb. 3, 2020, Galveston County officials remind us. 

Voter registration applications are available at all GCTO locations or online at  Contact the Voter Registration Department toll free at 1-888-976-2280 and an application can be emailed or mailed to you.  Applications are postage paid.

Texas Constitutional Amendments Election This November

September 9th, 2019

Since the adoption of the Texas Constitution in 1876, 498 amendments have been added. These amendments typically appear on November ballots in odd numbered years after the conclusion of the regular legislative session. This year, 10 proposed amendment will appear on the statewide ballot.

Below you will find a brief explanation of each amendment. if you would like further details the nonpartisan House Research Organization publishes the “Guide to the Constitutional Amendments.” which can be found by clicking here.

The election will occur on November 5th with Early Voting beginning on October 21st.

PROPOSITION 1: “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”

Current law allows for an appointed municipal judge to serve as a judge in more than one municipality. In municipalities where the judge is elected, however, a judge may only serve in one municipality. Voting YES for this constitutional amendment would create parity between appointed and elected municipal judges, so that both may serve more than one municipality. This proposition passed both the Texas House and Senate unanimously.

Serving as a municipal judge is often a part-time job in smaller municipalities, and these positions can be hard to fill by qualified judges. Voting YES for this constitutional amendment in November would make it easier for small cities and towns to find and retain qualified judges, ensuring that misdemeanor offenses are prosecuted and search warrants are obtained in a timely fashion, having a positive impact on public safety.

PROPOSITION 2: “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.”

Created in 1989, the Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP) operated by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) provides financial assistance to projects where water and wastewater services do not meet minimum state standards. Since its creation, EDAP has provided over $1 billion in loans to political subdivisions estimated to serve 400,000. In House District 62, the City of Whitewright has received $6.3 million from this program.

The TWDB currently has constitutional authority to issue $500 million in bonds; however, the program has reached its bond capacity and can no longer issue bonds for additional projects. Voting YES for Prop 2 would amend the Texas Constitution to allow the TWDB to issue bonds on an ongoing basis, as long as the total outstanding debt does not exceed $200 million.

Voting YES for this constitutional amendment DOES NOT grant the TWDB an additional $200 million, but allows the agency to issue additional bonds. The legislature has already appropriated $3.5 million over the next two years to TWDB for debt service payments on existing bonds. Capping the total outstanding debt at $200 million will ensure that Texas does not take on an excessive amount of debt, while at the same time allowing for the state to assist local governments in providing one of the basic functions of government, water service.

PROPOSITION 3: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.”

This amendment would allow the legislature to grant a temporary property tax exemption following a disaster declared by the Governor. Voting YES for this proposition would allow for property owners of damaged property to receive a temporary tax exemption if the legislature passed a law, without requiring a statewide election to amend the Texas Constitution. This proposition passed the Texas House and Senate unanimously.

Property owners struggling to rebuild damaged property should not have to pay taxes based on the value of the property before the damage. The owner of a $300,000 home that is 50% damaged should not have to pay taxes as if their home is still worth $300,000, as happened to some Texans after Hurricane Harvey. Voting YES would protect property owners from unfair taxes after any future disaster.

PROPOSITION 4: “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”

I am proud to be a coauthor of this legislation that allows for voters to constitutionally ban a future income tax in Texas. Currently, Texas does not have an income tax, but a future legislature could pass a general law with a majority vote to impose one. This law would then go to the Texas voters for approval.

Voting YES for this proposition would place a ban on an income tax in the Texas Constitution. If a future legislature chose to impose an income tax, they would have to pass another constitutional amendment to undo it, which would require a 2/3 vote of both the House and Senate, instead of a majority vote. Voting YES would further protect future Texans from the possibility of an income tax.

PROPOSITION 5: “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.”

Currently, the sales taxes collected on sporting goods are collected and deposited in the state’s General Revenue funds, along with sales tax collections on all other goods. Each session, the legislature then appropriates this money during the budget-writing process to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Historical Commission (THC).

This proposition would constitutionally dedicate the sporting good sales tax revenue to TPWD and THC in perpetuity, ensuring that future legislators do not spend the funds elsewhere (as has been done in the past.)

Voting YES on Prop 5 will dedicate the existing sales tax revenue to our state’s emergency response efforts and game warden operations, wildlife management programs, recreational opportunities, and state parks.

If this amendment passes, any time you purchase bicycles, hunting and fishing equipment, or exercise equipment, you can be assured the sales tax collections, estimated to be at least $170 million per year, are going toward these state programs.

PROPOSITION 6: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.”

In 2007 Texas voters approved the establishment of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to support institutions of learning and advanced medical research facilities in finding the cause of all types of human cancer and developing cures from lab research and clinical trials. Voters granted CPRIT the ability to issue bonds up to $3 billion to fund cancer prevention research and trials. The current maximum bond authority will be reached by 2022, after which the Institute will no longer be able to issue bonds for additional research grants.

Voting YES for this constitutional amendment DOES NOT grant CPRIT an additional $3 billion, but allows them to issue additional bonds up to $6 million. The legislature has already appropriated $2.5 million over the next two years to CPRIT for debt service payments on existing bonds.

PROPOSITION 7: “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”

In 1854 the Texas legislature created the Special School Fund (now called the Permanent School Fund or PSF), endowed with $2 million from the federal government that Texas received in exchange for its claims on the territory of present-day New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma. The Constitution of 1876 permanently restricted the Fund’s use to provide for public education.

Currently the PSF receives revenues from the sale and leasing of more than 13 million acres and other investments. The revenue from these investments is then deposited in the Available School Fund. Because greater investment returns have resulted in more revenue for the Permanent School Fund, this amendment would allow an increase from $300 million to $600 million the revenues that could be distributed to the Available School Fund each year.

Funds in the Available School Fund are then distributed to school districts annually through the school funding formulas. Voting YES for Prop 7 would increase the amount of Permanent School Fund revenues that would ultimately be distributed to our public schools.

PROPOSITION 8: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”

In 2013 in response to the 2011 drought, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment creating the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas to finance projects that would ensure the long-term water supply of Texas through low-interest loans backed by the state.

Now, in response to Hurricane Harvey, the legislature unanimously passed this constitutional amendment that would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund to assist in financing drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects that are as equally vital to the infrastructure of our state as the water-planning projects.

This amendment is part of a package of legislation passed this session to address the recovery and long-term resiliency of Texas. Voting YES for Prop 8 would establish a much-needed statewide, cooperative effort to “future-proof” the state against future flooding disasters. If approved, the Fund would receive $50 million in state funds to provide loans at or below-market rates to local governments to assist with basic flood project planning and engineering of flood mitigation projects.

PROPOSITION 9: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.”

The Texas Constitution requires that all real and tangible personal property in the state be taxed in proportion to its value unless otherwise exempt. Voting YES for this proposition would allow for the legislature to pass a law exempting precious metals held in a commercial depository in Texas from annual property taxation, just as the household goods, personal vehicle, and personal property (including precious metals) held in one’s home is exempt from property taxation.

Without an exemption, local governments may attempt to impose annual property taxes on their residents’ precious metals held in depositories, which could lead to confusion in the property tax system. A property tax exemption would also align with current Texas law that already exempts precious metals from the sales tax.

PROPOSITION 10: “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”

Current state law prohibits law enforcement agencies from transferring valuable property to a private person or organization without payment. Valuable property may include police dogs and other law enforcement animals whose ownership could not be transferred free of charge upon the animals’ retirement from service.

Voting YES for Prop 10 would allow for these animals to live with their handler or other caretaker upon their retirement, as determined by the head of the law enforcement agency. This proposition passed both the House and Senate unanimously, and is widely supported by law enforcement agencies.

— State Rep. Dennis Paul, District 129
Bay Area Houston Magazine