Important Information for Constitutional Amendment Election
Austin, Texas — This week marked the beginning of early voting for the November Constitutional Amendment Election, in which Texans will be asked to consider nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.
Early voting runs through Friday, November 1 and voters may cast a ballot at any early voting location in the same county as their voter registration. Those wishing to vote by mail should be aware that the last day to apply for a ballot by mail is Friday, October 25. Information on mail ballots can be obtained through the Secretary of State's website at http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqabbm.shtml.
In addition, the Secretary also maintains an "Online Voter Central" site which includes information on voter registration, polling place locations, voting systems, lists of county election administrators and information on the new voter identification requirements. The site is located at https://team1.sos.state.tx.us/voterws/viw/faces/Introduction.jsp.
The Texas Legislative Council has issued an analysis of the amendments which contains ballot language, summaries of the proposals, and a summary of the arguments for and against each measure. I have included the summary of Proposition Six below as an example and the entire document can be viewed online or printed at http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/pubsconamend/analyses13/analyses13.pdf.
Amendment No. 6 (S.J.R. 1)
The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.
Summary of Proposed Amendment. S.J.R. 1 proposes to amend the Texas Constitution by creating the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas as special funds in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund to be administered, without further appropriation, by the Texas Water Development Board and used for the purpose of implementing the state water plan adopted by the board. The proposed amendment authorizes the transfer or deposit of state revenue into each fund, but does not itself make a transfer or deposit of money into either fund.
The proposed amendment permits the legislature to authorize the Texas Water Development Board to enter into bond enhancement agreements payable from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas to provide additional security for bonds used to finance state water plan projects. Repayment of an amount paid under a bond enhancement agreement may not cause general obligation bonds to be no longer self-supporting. The proposed amendment also permits the legislature to authorize the board to use the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas to finance water projects by direct loan. A bond enhancement or loan agreement is subject to the approval of the Legislative Budget Board.
The proposed amendment also permits the legislature to authorize the Texas Water Development Board, with the approval of the Legislative Budget Board, to issue bonds and enter into related credit agreements that are payable from the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas.
The proposed amendment requires the Texas Water Development Board to annually set aside from each fund amounts sufficient to make bond or bond enhancement agreement payments that become due from those funds during that year. It prohibits any dedication or appropriation of amounts in a fund from being modified in a way that would impair any outstanding bond or obligation under a bond enhancement agreement secured by a pledge of those amounts unless provisions have been made for a full discharge of the bond or bond enhancement agreement. The proposed amendment also provides that obligations payable from either fund are not considered general obligations of the state. The proposed amendment provides that money in the funds is dedicated by the Texas Constitution for purposes of the limit on spending from undedicated state tax revenues established under Section 22, Article VIII, of the constitution, and also provides that an appropriation from the economic stabilization fund (also known as the rainy day fund) to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas is an appropriation of state tax revenues dedicated by the constitution for the purposes of that section.
H.B. 4, Acts of the 83rd Legislature, Regular Session, 2013, is the enabling legislation for S.J.R. 1. The bill addresses in more detail the manner in which the proposed water funds are administered, including the manner in which projects are prioritized for funding and the portion of the money disbursed that is to be applied for various purposes. In addition, H.B. 1025, Acts of the 83rd Legislature, Regular Session, 2013, appropriates $2 billion out of the economic stabilization fund to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas to be used by the Texas Water Development Board to finance projects in the state water plan in accordance with H.B. 4. Because S.J.R. 1 provides that an appropriation from the economic stabilization fund to the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas is an appropriation of state tax revenues dedicated by the constitution, the $2 billion appropriation would not to be counted against the biennial state spending cap that is established under Chapter 316, Government Code, to ensure that the rate of growth of certain appropriations does not exceed the rate of growth of the state's economy, as Section 22, Article VIII, of the constitution prohibits. The relevant provisions of H.B. 4 and H.B. 1025 are contingent on the approval by the voters of the constitutional amendment proposed by S.J.R. 1.
I encourage you to research all of the proposed amendments and ask that you please take time to go vote in this important election. If you need any additional information on any of the proposals, or about the voting process in general, please do not hesitate to contact any of my offices.