October 25, 2011
… Being outside and enjoying festivals. On Saturday, I attended the 24th Annual Elgin Hogeye Festival.
Elgin’s a wonderful community of around 8,100 people, located about 20 miles east of Austin. The historians tell me that, back in the old days, the area went by a couple of names, including the nickname “Hogeye.”
It seems folks used to have dances at the stagecoach stop. But the fiddler could really only play one song, something called – wait for it – Hogeye. So, the stage stop took on that name.
(The name of the fiddler appears to be lost to history. I feel a little bad for that dude. Frankly, I think a man that can keep people dancing over and over to the same song ought to have a city named after him.)
I had a blast Saturday. There were lots of pig puns, a hog-calling contest, a performance by the “Sowpremes,” and unlimited opportunity to eat pork in the Sausage Capital of Texas.
Of course, I rode my Hog out there to be a part of it all.
Part of what made this weekend so great, I think, is that we’re finally entering a new season. It’s one we’ve all been waiting for. You can feel it in the air.
It’s a time of change. Of anticipation. A time to come bounding out of your house to do something that you just can’t do in the summer.
Yes, it’s election time.
Yesterday, early voting started on 10 amendments to the state constitution. Those amendments, and the laws they’d enact, can’t pass if they aren’t approved by voters.
So, other than it just being your duty to go vote whenever election time rolls around, it’s also your chance to play an important role in the legislative process. To get more information about early voting in Travis County, go here. For Bastrop County, try this. And if you live anywhere else in Texas, check with your county clerk’s office or try the Secretary of State’s page.
One way or another, please don’t miss it.
As you may remember, I’m endorsing all 10 of the amendments for passage. My summaries are below.
But before we take another look at those, let me write a little bit about the way these propositions get on the ballot in the first place.
The process is important because, it seems like, a few folks may have a knee-jerk reaction against one or more of the amendments just because they think they have to be against something on the ballot.
The truth is, they don’t. And neither do you.
First of all, constitutional amendments can’t pass without the vote of two-thirds of each legislative chamber. Obviously, that’s a very high hurdle to clear, and it means these initiatives can’t even make it out of the legislature without wide-ranging and bipartisan support.
Furthermore, I feel that constitutional amendments actually tend to get more attention in the legislature than standard bills – if only because legislators all know that we can’t change or fix anything without another constitutional amendment.
And finally, as individual policy measures, it’s pretty easy to support all 10 of the propositions.
Here again is a summary of what you’ll see on the ballot now that early voting’s started.
The big issue for me, as I’ve discussed before, is Proposition 8, which would enact the Water Stewardship legislation I passed during the regular session. This law would encourage landowners to manage their property in a way that conserves water and improves water quality for future generations of Texans. This was more than a bipartisan effort that passed unanimously in both chambers of the legislature. It also won the support of a wide range of business, environmental and agricultural groups.
Proposition 8 will let property owners have their land appraised as agricultural (generally resulting in a lower tax bill) if they manage it in a way that improves water quality and quantity.
However – and this is important – the law would only apply to folks who already qualify for the agriculture valuation. That means it wouldn’t cost the state money, and it wouldn’t open what’s known as the “agricultural exemption” to anyone who doesn’t already qualify for it. But it would encourage practices that help the state’s water supply.
So vote “yes” on Proposition 8. Seriously.
Here’s the full ballot, which you also should vote “yes” on:
Proposition 1 would allow creation of a tax exemption for disabled veterans’ spouses. The state already provides a full property tax exemption to veterans who are completely disabled. This proposition would extend that benefit to the surviving spouses of those veterans as long as they continue to meet certain conditions.
Proposition 2 would allow the Texas Water Development Board to issue continuing debt, with no more than $6 billion outstanding at any time, for projects that help state and local entities improve the state’s water supply. More than 90 percent of the state is in moderate to severe drought right now. We need tools such as both Prop 2 and Prop 8 to meet our future needs.
Proposition 3 would let the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board issue debt to pay for student loans, subject to restrictions such as a maximum amount of debt outstanding at any one time.
Proposition 4 would allow counties to issue tax-supported bonds to develop or redevelop certain areas within the county.
Proposition 5 would let cities and counties contract with each other without having to meet certain obligations created by the state.
Proposition 6 would give the state flexibility in how it calculates money that’s available to schools from the state’s Permanent School Fund, allowing the state to distribute up to $300 million more per year for Texas schools and schoolkids.
Proposition 7 would let El Paso County create a conservation and reclamation district to develop parks and recreation centers.
Once again, Proposition 8 would create Texas’ first statewide water conservation tool – protecting water quality in rivers, streams and aquifers, while also helping the state meet its water planning and conservation goals.
Proposition 9 would let the Governor, with the written recommendation of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, grant a pardon, reprieve or commutation of sentence to someone who completes deferred adjudication community supervision.
Proposition 10 would extend the length of an unexpired term-in-office that triggers the automatic resignation of some local elected officials should those officials announce they’re running for something else.
So that’s the list. Only one thing left to do.