Saturday, October 19, 2013

Early Voting begins Monday

  Early Voting: Oct 21st - Nov1st



(we'd like to encourage you to follow the link to read the  the pros and cons in detail)



Monday-Early Voting begins

Every 2 years, we are asked to consider what our state legislators want us to amend in our Texas Constitution.  This Nov 5th, we have 9 proposed changes to consider.  Of those 9, only 4 received a “no” vote in the House chamber, and in the Senate they all passed without one single “no” vote.  So you see, Austin wants you to show up and put your stamp of approval on these amendments.  I am asking you to do a little research on them and decide for yourself.

Here’s a link to an article on all 9 propositions.  Within a few days, the airwaves will be bombarded with ads about “Prop 6”, the water funding amendment.  Please do some homework.  If you don’t have time to do the homework, please show up and vote no.  If your  “no” vote means a good proposition fails, I guarantee you it will come up again and you’ll have another chance to research it more.

Here’s the link to my article, and thank you for taking part in your government.  Your actions are affecting my children’s future.

Barbara Harless

Friday, October 18, 2013

WeTexans Voters Guide

(Written by Debra Medina

October 2013

Texas Voters Guide

With all the recent focus on the government shutdown, many will miss the fact that there is also an election just days away, early voting starts Monday and will run through Friday, November 1.  Texas voters will decide on nine amendments to the Texas Constitution.  View a sample ballot here  The Texas Constitution is a large and complex document because it is rare that constitutional amendments fail at the ballot box.

With this in mind it is important to point out that these amendments are often the means of saddling Texans with debt. Texas taxpayers already find ourselves with the 2nd highest local debt burden in the country.  Yet elected officials still don’t seem to get the idea that citizens are tired of the runaway spending that fails to pay as we go.  We must live within our means and should not be increasing our debt!

Consequently, We Texans urges voters to “just say no” to most of this ballot.  Yes, that’s right, since four of the nine propositions call for shifting of or increases in government spending or tax burden, we are recommending that you vote “against” them; two others, prop 5 and 7, in our view, also warrant votes "against".  Propositions 2, 8 and 9 are the exceptions for which we can support a “for” vote.

Here’s why:

Proposition 1: Provides a property tax exemption for surviving spouses of certain service members.  Read the legislation here (HRJ 62)

While the property tax is a fundamentally flawed means of funding local government that we are working to  completely eliminate, it is the method that is used in Texas today.  Though well intended, this proposition adds yet another exemption to the long list of property tax-outs and distorts justice by shifting the cost of local government to the shoulders of others in the community.  We Texans recommends voting "against" this proposition.

Proposition 2: Removing provisions for the State Medical Education Board.  Read the legislation here (HJR 79)

This proposal would remove constitutional authorization for the State Medical Education Board and the State Medical Education Fund by repealing Texas Constitution Art. 3, sec. 50a.  The Board is inactive as the functions of the Board have been transferred to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Office of the Attorney General.  The Sunset Advisory Commission recommended the Board be eliminated way back in 1988; we're finally getting around to doing that.  We Texans recommends voting "for" this proposition.

Proposition 3: Allowing extension of exemption from inventory taxes for aircraft parts Read the legislation here (HJR 133)

Again, while we wholeheartedly agree property and inventory taxes should be eliminated, they are currently the means for financing local governments and public education.  Providing this exemption shifts the burden from the effected industries to the shoulders of others in that same community.  Taxes must be equitably and justly distributed.  Singling out one group for a tax exemption, even for a meritorious purpose, raises issues of uniformity in taxation.  We Texans recommends voting "against" this proposition.

Proposition 4: Tax exemption for disabled veterans whose homesteads were donated by a charity.  Read the legislation here (HJR 24)

While the property tax is a fundamentally flawed means of funding local government that we are working to  completely eliminate, it is the method that is used in Texas today.  Though well intended, this proposition adds yet another exemption to the long list of property tax-outs and distorts justice by shifting the cost of local government to the shoulders of others in the community.  We Texans recommends voting "against" this proposition.

Proposition 5: Authorizes a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property.  Read the legislation here (SJR 18)

Texans have rightly been skeptical of creative lending schemes especially when it comes to financing homes.  Loosening restrictions on reverse mortgages would make Texans more vulnerable to being upside down in their homes, having greater debt than equity.  We Texans recommends voting "against" this proposition.

Proposition 6: Creating funds to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water planRead the legislation here (SJR 1)

This proposal would create the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas removing $2 billion from the Rainy Day fund and placing it outside the general revenue in this quasi-investment bank overseen by the appointed three-member Texas Water Development Board.  Claims about the purpose of the fund are misleading.  The fund can not be used to finance state water plan projects.  These funds can only be use to provide additional security in the form of debt service, deferred loan structure or credit enhancement on projects already supported by Texas Water Development Bonds.  Texas voters authorized $6 billion in revolving bond authority in 2011 none of which has been issued or utilized.  These new funds would provide additional incentive to local governments to utilize these bonds (i.e., loans, taking on more debt) by providing a reduction in the interest due on the loan.  Local governments generally already have sufficient credit ratings to complete projects without financial assistance from the state.  Further, since water rights and development occur at the local and regional level and there are few processes in place to prioritize water projects across the state, there is little guarantee the funds will be directed towards the most critical projects.  We Texans recommends voting "against" this proposition.

Proposition 7: Allowing home-rule cities to decide how to fill vacant seats.  Read the legislation here (HJR 87)

The proposal would allow home-rule cities (cities with a population of more than 5,000 that have adopted a home-rule charter) to amend their charter to allow filling vacancies on the governing body by appointment rather than by election as is currently required.  Cities argue that filling vacancies by special election within 120 days after the start of a vacancy, as is currently required, is costly.  The proposal would, however, likely provide incentive for early resignation so appointments could be made thereby giving newly appointed members an advantage in any subsequent election.  The cost of a special election in the rare occurrence of a vacancy is a small price to pay to ensure accountability in city government.    We Texans recommends voting "against" this proposition.

Proposition 8: Repealing the provision authorizing a hospital district in Hidalgo CountyRead the legislation here (HJR 147)

The proposal would correct a constitutional discrepancy that limits the maximum tax rate in Hidalgo County hospital districts to 10 cents while hospital districts in other counties are limited to maximum tax rates of 75 cents.   Hidalgo County residents would be allowed to create new hospital districts under the conditions available to other counties.  We Texans recommends voting "for" this proposition.

Proposition 9: Expanding the State Commission on Judicial Conduct's sanctioning authority.  Read the legislation here (SJR 42)

This provision would expand the current authority after a formal hearing to allow the commission to issue a public admonition, warning or reprimand or require a judge or justice to obtain training or education.  We Texans recommends voting "for" on this proposition.

The Constitution has been amended hundreds of times, and when voters are asked to tack on yet another law, most of the time they say ‘Yes.” This is a good year to say “No” to many of these proposals.
We Texans continues to engage in policy work in areas dear to freedom loving Texans: private property, gun ownership, state sovereignty and tax and fiscal policy.  You can be a part of the work that we do by committing to regularly fund our efforts.  If you have not already done so, I hope you will consider becoming a member today.  Attention on political work seems to wane between legislative sessions but as the Speaker of the House recently pointed out, the blue print for the next legislative session is being crafted NOW.  We can't afford to slack off.  We'll be in Austin often and we'll be working to help draft legislation that addresses these key policy areas.  Your donation of $50, $100 or $250 helps fund our work.  If you are able, we would be very appreciative of your generous contribution.

And please, remember to vote and be sure to encourage your family and friends to review the issues and then cast their vote.  With your help, we can defeat these ill-conceived proposals and slow the growth of government in Texas.

Terri Hall says~ Nix Prop 6: Public drain for private gain

Rural water raid to benefit developers, not average Texan

Have you ever had a kid ask for seconds during a meal before he’s even finished what’s on his plate? Well, that’s what the Texas Legislature is asking of voters with Proposition 6 on November 5.

Lawmakers want Texans to pass this constitutional amendment to approve more funding for water projects. A similar measure narrowly passed in November 2011 for a $6 billion revolving fund to loan money to local government entities for water infrastructure, outside constitutional debt limitations. Now in 2013, the Texas Legislature is asking voters for permission to raid $2 billion from the state’s emergency fund, known as the Rainy Day Fund, to assist local agencies of government in funding water projects from the state’s water plan.

Governor Rick PerryLieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and Speaker Joe Straus all committed to making additional water and transportation infrastructure a priority in the 83rd legislative session, yet neither was addressed in the base budget.

Lawmakers chose to kick the tough decisions directly to the voters asking them to use emergency funds to issue more debt, rather than discipline the use of existing taxes to fund priorities out of the regular budget (which voters have no control over). A second amendment pertaining to transportation will follow in 2014.

In essence, they want us to do their jobs for them by putting us in a box. Pass the amendments or get nothing, or so it seems at first glance.

Asking for more with $6 billion on the table
The first $6 billion in credit the voters approved in 2011 has yet to be tapped, and yet here are lawmakers already asking for more. So why the push for more funding before the last round has even been touched? Because the special interests who want to build and finance these water projects want better credit terms than the already favorable, low-interest $6 billion revolving fund can offer them.

They want to be able to funnel questionable economic development projects through local water boards and get better credit enhancements, deferred loan repayments, and/or deferred interest payments than they could get with the fund established in 2011.

In other words, special interests want taxpayers and ratepayers to pick-up the tab for “gap funding” between project implementation and when they can send customers their first bill.

Considering legislators had a record $8 billion surplus in January and went on a spending spree, having spent 26% more this session than the previous session, and despite Texas having the second highest level of local debt in the nation, lawmakers are still asking voters to issue more local debt and to use the state’s emergency funds to do it.

Harvard grad and State Representative Van Taylor (R – Plano) likened it to giving someone a credit card with a $6 billion credit limit only to have them ask for another $2 billion before charging anything.

Making water unaffordable
Who has to repay all this debt with interest? Ratepayers and taxpayers.

But lawmakers seem un-phased by the fact funding local water projects with more state-backed debt will push up the price of water to consumers, possibly to unaffordable levels in very short order.

With other utility bills on the rise, healthcare costs soaring, other taxes going up, full-time gainful employment shrinking, and sustained high food and fuel prices despite the domestic shale oil boom (most is being exported not being used to reduce the cost of gas to U.S. consumers), making an essential element of daily living like water unattainable for working families will push many over the edge into poverty and want.

Turning scarce dollars into slush funds
There’s not sufficient assurance that the true priorities will even get built, nor is there sufficient assurance that these projects will have adequate public input to protect rural Texans’ water from being heisted and used to feed urban developers pet projects. Since decisions will be made solely by the un-elected Water Development Board and funneled through local water districts, there’s plenty of opportunity for unnecessary projects to be funded ahead of the true priorities.

Look no further than the Tarrant Regional Water District subsidiary’s recent approval of an outdoor ice rink, and there’s enough to make voters skeptical.

Threat to farmers
One of the big concerns of TURF is that the funding is not tied to actual water production or adding capacity, which is what Texas desperately needs, not taxpayer-financed ice rinks nor stealing from rural farmers that shifts water from one to another, rather than provide a net increase of actual water.

Taking water from drought-ridden rural Texans jeopardizes their ability to make a living and to continue to provide all Texans with the food we need for daily living. Essentially, the way it’s set-up, Prop 6 would allow government, under the thumb of special interests, to pick the winners and losers.  After the Trans Texas Corridor debacle, the last thing rural Texans need is another threat to their livelihoods and way of life.

Sneaky tactics
To add to the thorny debate, lawmakers signaled they knew Prop 6 was in trouble before they left Austin since they pushed another Rainy Day raid for transportation to November of 2014. House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts was adamant that passage of the two measures should be tied together to guarantee they either both pass or both fail. Apparently, he worried voters would approve transportation and not water. So rather than truly let the voters decide what they wanted to fund and how, he tried to rig it to ensure passage of both.

House members balked at directly tying passage of the two measures together fearing it would anger voters, so a handful of conference committee leaders moved the transportation measure to 2014 to appear alone in a completely separate election. Yet when citizens ask for elected leadership on transportation boards, these same legislators opine that holding elections is too expensive. Apparently, their objections don’t apply to holding a separate election of their choosing.

Current transportation funding levels cannot even cover road maintenance costs, leaving no money for any new capacity or expansion projects that are sorely needed in congested urban corridors. Over the next two years, the only new capacity is being built with more debt. The total cost of the mounting road debt will exceed $31 billion (in principal and interest). The proposed transportation amendment would divert half of the oil and gas severance taxes that capitalize the Rainy Day Fund to roads, estimated to be $1.2 billion annually.

Naturally, lawmakers realize how this would look on the ballot alongside a $2 billion raid for water projects so soon after asking for a $6 billion water loan program just two years ago.

Perhaps they’re counting on the short memory of most voters or counting on low information voters to buy into the scare tactics and frightening photos of bone dry lakes courtesy of Water Texas PAC trying to convince voters that unless they pass this amendment the state will run out of water.

TURF and the ‘Nix Prop 6′ coalition recognize we have dire water needs in our state, but Prop 6 is not the answer. How we secure a sustainable water supply and how we fund it must be transparent, must ensure the public has the ability to sufficiently weigh-in to protect local water supplies from being depleted by outside areas, and must actually fund priorities of public necessity, not used as a means to divert public water supplies and public funds to private interests.

Returning to a fiscally sound, pay-as-you-go plan is the best course to ensure a prosperous future. Texas voters ought not to be fooled by the gimmicks and scarce tactics and follow common sense and sound financial principles – if it isn’t a good idea for your own household budget, it isn’t a good idea for government or the taxpayers, either.

Vote ‘no’ on Prop 6 and force lawmakers to use the money voters already approved before asking for more. Better yet, require them to fund basic infrastructure needs — roads and water — from our existing taxes in the base budget, not with emergency funds and debt.

Texas Representative David Simpson says to vote NO on Prop. 6

October 14, 2013


(Irving) – Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) expressed his opposition to Proposition 6 at a press conference today because “it would unnecessarily expand state government into investment banking, which is better performed by the private sector in a free market, allocating limited resources based on financial risk and return instead of political considerations.”

Simpson asked, “Do we want the state to fund water infrastructure like we have funded research and commercialization with CPRIT? Do we want state government handing out sweetheart loans based on political connections instead of economic realities? Government's track record on this count is poor at best, as our recent experience with CPRIT has demonstrated once again.”

“The Legislature played an elaborate shell game with the appropriation of funds for this program. The $2 billion appropriation for this program will come from the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), or 'Rainy Day Fund,' if this amendment is approved by the people. However, the ballot language fails to inform the voter they are moving money from the state’s ESF or that the move would exceed the spending cap if the funds were not being constitutionally dedicated,” Simpson further explained.

“The appropriate role of the state is to protect private and regional water rights.”

“Intervention in the market by the state will no doubt favor some at the expense of others, such as East Texans. Because East Texas is blessed with more water resources than other parts of the state, it is likely those resources will be sought after by others and this proposal jeopardizes the ability for East Texas to protect its resources from being taken away by force, without its consent.”

“With their consent in a free market, I believe East Texans would develop infrastructure to collect and distribute water if their rights are protected like their oil and gas resources are currently. The region’s normally abundant water supply could meet the demands for water in other places of the state.”

Representative Simpson, Republican from Longview, serves House District 7, comprised of Gregg and Upshur Counties.