Election Day: November 5, 2019

11-04-2019

photo by cnn

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5 from 7 AM - 7 PM. You can find out whether you are registered to vote, find your polling location and view a sample ballot at https://epcountyvotes.com. Remember to bring one form of current i.d. (such as a passport or driver’s license) and research before you vote. 

 

This year’s ballot includes a city bond initiative, a slate of amendments to the Texas state constitution, a special election for the District 3 City Council seat currently held by Rep. Cassandra Hernandez and a few other measures depending on where you live.

 

City Bond, Proposition A  

On the ballot: "The issuance of $413,122,650 general obligation bonds for public safety facilities including police department and fire department motor vehicles and equipment and that taxes sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds will be imposed.”

A municipal bond is a tool used by cities and municipalities to finance large projects such as new construction and improvements to existing infrastructure. When a bond is approved, community members can purchase the bonds and “lend” their money to the government (through taxes or by purchasing bonds) with a promise to be paid back over time with interest. 

The El Paso City Council voted unanimously to put the current bond initiative on the ballot in August. Originally, the bond would have added up to almost $1 billion and included improvements to roads, public health and animal services. However, the council ultimately voted to cut the bond in half and limit the bond to police and fire infrastructure. The city plans to look at other options for financing the elements of the original bond (like road improvements) that were removed.

The bond before voters would be used to build a new police headquarters, two new regional command centers and a police training academy. It would also provide for major renovations to the four existing regional police command centers. For the fire department, the bond would finance construction of a new headquarters and three new stations in addition to a training and logistics facility. Both the police and fire departments would also be able to purchase new vehicles. City staff estimate that property taxes would increase by an average of $12 per year for six years for a household with a $100,000 home.

 

Texas Constitutional Amendments 

 

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

Municipal judges adjudicate criminal misdemeanor cases and violations of city ordinances. Currently, only appointed municipal judges may serve in multiple jurisdictions at the same time. This proposition would also allow elected municipal judges to serve in multiple jurisdictions, making it easier for smaller cities and rural areas to elect qualified judges by broadening the pool of candidates.

 

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.

This proposition allows the state to continually issue bonds in order to develop the water supply and improve sewer service in areas where median household income is at or below 75% of statewide median income.

 

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 proposition would allow the Texas Legislature to require local governments to exempt certain properties from property taxes if they have been damaged and are located in a disaster area (for example, homes damaged by a hurricane). Currently, homes must undergo extensive re-valuation processes if they have been damaged. This law would allow property tax exemptions to go into effect more quickly in the event of a 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.”

Texans do not currently pay a personal income tax to support the state government. If passed, this amendment would make it more difficult to impose such a tax in the future. Currently, a proposal for a personal income tax would need support from a majority of the Texas House and Senate before being sent to the ballot for approval by Texas voters. By making the prohibition a constitutional amendment, the proposition would require ⅔ of the Texas Legislature to approve a proposal before it could be sent to the voters. 

 

For more information, check out this article from the Texas Tribune.

 

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.”

 

A law passed in 1993 allows sportings goods tax revenues to be used for the maintenance of state parks. However, only a percentage of those revenues have historically been used for their intended purpose (they have been used instead to balance the state budget). Proposition 5 would stabilize the funding stream to ensure that 100% of all sporting goods revenues go to the parks and the Texas Historical Commission.

 

For more information, check out this article from the Texas Tribune.

 

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.”

This proposition would extend a $3 billion bond approved by voters and issued to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute (CPRIT) in 2007. The money from the first bond will run out in 2021. CPRIT is a state organization with a focus on cancer prevention that has invested in 1,500 research initiatives and started 132 clinical drug trials. While it suffered from poor oversight and mismanagement in its early years, CPRIT is credited with helping lower the cancer mortality rate in Texas from by 8% between 2011 and 2016. The bond would reduce the institute’s reliance on federal grants.

 

For more information, check out this article from the Texas Tribune.

 

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

Revenue from state-owned lands (such as mineral rights for oil and gas or grazing permits) is allocated to the Permanent School Fund. The Texas General Land Office or GLO (which manages state land) transfers the revenue from the Fund to the State Board of Education (SBE), which then invests it. Revenue from the interest is directed to the Available School Fund and goes from there to school districts. Proposition 7 would increase the allowable amount of revenue transfer from the GLO to the SBE $300 million per year to $600 million per year.

 

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.”

This proposition would create a fund to help the state deal with the aftermath of flooding and better prepare Texas for future storms. The Flood Infrastructure Fund would get a one-time infusion of $800 million and lawmakers would be able to add more in the future. The Fund would be managed by the Texas Water Development Board, allowing it to be disbursed quickly without waiting for legislative approval. 

 

For more information, check out this article from the Texas Tribune.

 

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.”

Proposition 9 would exempt precious metals held in a depository from taxation. Depositories are facilities where individuals or companies can store precious metals such as gold and silver for a fee. Exempting the metals held by these depositories from taxation would make the facilities more competitive. However, many counties already do not tax precious metals. 

 

Proposition 10: “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.” This proposition would allow law enforcement animals to be adopted by their longtime handlers after retirement. Currently, law enforcement animals are considered “surplus government property” when they retire and in some cases are auctioned off. 

 

For more information, check out this article from the Texas Tribune.

 

Special Election, City Council District 3 

Not sure if you’re in District 3? Click here. 

Rep. Cassandra Hernandez has represented City Council District 3, which includes the Lower Valley and parts of East El Paso, since 2017. On August 19 of this year, a photo was briefly posted on her Facebook page showing Hernandez in San Jacinto Plaza with a caption reading “Cassandra Hernandez for Mayor.” 

 

The Texas Constitution stipulates that officeholders must automatically resign when they announce a candidacy for a separate office. While Hernandez argued that the photo was accidentally posted by a campaign volunteer and should not be considered a campaign announcement, after hearing from the city attorney the city council approved a special election by a vote of 4-3 to fill the position, allowing her to stay on until the election was held. Hernandez filed to run again for the seat. 

 

Three challengers are on the ballot in addition to Rep. Hernandez: Ana Duenez, William Veliz, and Brooks Vandivort. Duenez is a former board secretary with the Ysleta ISD board of trustees. Veliz is a real estate agent who has served on the city’s zoning board as well as the police and fireman pension fund. Vandivort works for a local software company and is a former chairman of the City Planning Commission. 

 

For more information about candidates, check out this article from the El Paso Times.

 

Ysleta ISD Bond Election 

Voters in the Ysleta Independent School District will be able to vote on a $425 million bond to finance school renovations and new construction. This is the second large bond passed in four years (the last one was for $430.5 billion in 2015). The bond will increase the property tax rate by 21 cents (to about $1.57 per $100 in assessed value).

Proposed projects include: 

  • Safety upgrades (like automatic fire sprinkler systems and doors with card access)

  • Refrigerated air at several campuses 

  • Construction of a new Hanks Middle School (consolidating Desert View and Indian Ridge)

  • Construction of a new Riverside Elementary School (consolidating Ascarate and Cedar Grove) 

  • Rebuilding Dolphin Terrace and Scotsdale Elementary Schools

  • Renovating Bel Air High School

  • Renovating Riverside High School’s Career and Technology Education facility and adding turf to baseball and softball fields 

 

School closures will save the district about $800,000 per year and will not lead to faculty or staff layoffs. The district has not indicated what it will do with buildings that are no longer in use.

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