Early voting begins in Austin for amendments, city propositions

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Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

With 498 amendments passed since 1876, Texas voters can approve up to 10 more Texas Constitutional amendments starting Monday.

These amendments, which were proposed during last year’s legislative session, include policy changes on sales taxes, state income taxes and cancer research funds. Along with the amendments on the ballot, Austinites will also be voting on two city propositions. 

The first city amendment, Proposition A, would require a City Council supermajority and voter approval for the use of city-owned land for sports and entertainment facilities. Proposition B would require voter approval for Austin Convention Center additions exceeding $20 million, and the proposition would limit the amount of Austin’s hotel tax revenue used for the improvements to 34%.

Austin City Council approved an ordinance Thursday that designates November election days as “Let Texas Vote Day.” Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza said the city is now working to make election day a paid city holiday starting in 2020 to give city staff administrative leave to vote in federal, state and local elections. Garza said it is important for Texas to overcome its history of voter suppression and allow the community to become more engaged in politics.

Proposition 4, a state amendment, would make it more difficult for future legislators to enact an individual income tax. Instead of requiring a majority of legislators to pass and a majority of voters to approve an income tax in a state-wide referendum, the amendment specifies two-thirds of the House and Senate must vote to approve proposals.

“Proposition 4 would help keep the Texas economy strong by ensuring that the state could not impose an individual income tax, sending a message that Texas (is) committed to maintaining a business-friendly, low-tax economic environment,” Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), said during the session.

 

Proposition 5 would allocate sporting goods sales tax revenue to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. Under this proposed amendment, Texas Parks and Wildlife would receive 93% of the tax revenue and the Texas Historical Commission would receive 7%.

“The state parks system deserves a constitutionally protected source of revenue to fulfill promises made when the Legislature allocated the existing sales tax on sporting goods to funding for state parks and historic sites,” Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), said in a press release.

Proposition 6 aims to increase the maximum amount of bonds the Texas Public Finance Authority could provide, issue and sell on behalf of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas from $3 billion to $6 billion.

Former Texas legislator John Zerwas, co-author of Proposition 6, said this reauthorization of funding and support of the institute would maintain its current level of activity and continue Texas’ national leadership in cancer research and prevention. 

“Since the creation of the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute of Texas, Texas has become the second-largest public funder of cancer research in the country, behind only the federal National Cancer Institute,” Zerwas said in a press release. “(The institute’s) support of cancer research has accelerated the development of potential cures and prevention strategies.”

Early voting will end on Nov. 1, and Election Day is on Nov. 5. Students can vote early at the Flawn Activity Center or at various off-campus locations, such as Austin City Hall.