From the Office of State Senator Royce West - District 23

For Immediate Release
October 15, 2001

Why the November 6 election deserves your vote

If there is a single lesson to be learned from the unprecedented occurrences of Election 2000, it should be the value of a single, correctly counted ballot. It is of equal importance that a regular pattern of voting is practiced to the degree that when it comes time, eligibility goes without question. To translate, it should not be so long since the last time you've cast your ballot that you are not sure whether you're registered or not.

November 6 is the next opportunity that Texans will have to exercise that precious right. No, we cannot elect a president. And it will be another year before you can elect the U.S. Senator, Congressperson, Governor, and oh yes, State Senator of your choice. But your vote on November 6, 2001 is a chance to again have your say on how government should work on your behalf.

A quick lesson in civics says that our day-to-day pursuits are regulated through ordinance and statute, and those mandates by constitutional law. Often, ideas or initiatives surface that although they could be of great benefit to the public, and have gathered the support of politicians, are not permissible under constitutional law. While the language of both the original U.S. and Texas Constitutions remains the same, both are written in terms broad enough to allow interpretation by statute, and change by amendment.

A total of 19 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution will appear on the November 6 slate. And although all 19 proposed constitutional changes deserve your attention, I've lifted for your edification, several that have far-reaching implications.

Proposition 6 was drafted and approved by the Legislature this year to ensure that the debacle that happened in Florida during Election 2000 can never take place in Texas. Democracy was held hostage while ballots were being counted and recounted, and court challenges were made to decide who would receive Florida's electoral votes. Inevitably, a state process required a Supreme Court decision. Proposition 6 would require the Governor to call a Special Session of the Legislature in the likelihood that a determination of the electors will not be reached in time to comply with election deadlines.

Our treasured military veterans will be happy to know that a constitutional amendment - Proposition 7 - if passed, will allow the Veterans' Land Board to issue $500 million in bonds to finance additional home mortgage loans for veterans. This would be in addition to funds

already available for that reason. Assets derived from the sale of bonds will also be used to improve veterans's cemeteries.

Proposition 8 is important for a number of reasons. It authorizes the issuance of $850 million in General Obligation Bonds. These bonds will help finance numerous state agencies such as the

Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, Parks and Wildlife, and the Department of Public Safety to name a few.

Near and dear to me, included in the funding for the Department of Criminal Justice is $18.5 million for the purchase of audio visual equipment to be used in the implementation of the Racial Profiling Bill.

Proposition 9 if approved, will save taxpayer dollars. Current constitutional law says that a special election must take place to fill a vacancy in the Legislature, even if there is only one qualified candidate for the seat. Proposition 9 will allow vacancies to be filled through certification without an election if a candidate is running unopposed. Similar law now governs local elections.

Its no surprise to anyone who drives the roads and highways of this state that there are problems besetting transportation. But few are aware of the expense involved in constructing a roadway. A one-lane road, one-mile in length, costs in the area of $1 million to build. Figures from the Department of Transportation reveal that the state has funding available to complete only 36 percent of the projects needed to accommodate Texas' rapid population growth.

Texas now operates under a "pay-as-you-go" approach, meaning that roads are not built until the money is available. While that may have worked in a bygone day, that method is as outdated as the old "Blue Law" which said you couldn't buy a hammer or clothing on a Sunday.

Proposition 15 would create the Texas Mobility Fund. Under the Fund, as opposed to the current system, money could be borrowed, backed by the sale of bonds. Financing of projects will allow existing dollars to spread further. I might add that transportation, is the only state entity that uses the "pay-as-you-go" method. Education for example, has always had the ability to finance capital projects.

America has been blessed and because of our bounty, we are often called upon to share that abundance with others. It was with such thoughts of goodwill that I authored Senate Joint Resolution 32 - Proposition 5 on the ballot. Proposition 5 will give to fire departments throughout the state, the option of donating used, outdated or surplus fire fighting equipment to impoverished countries.

Representatives of the Dallas Fire Department brought this proposal to me due to the number of donation requests received statewide from underdeveloped countries. However, the Texas Constitution presently allows used equipment to be donated only to other Texas municipalities or bordering states. Donations to foreign entities are not allowed.

It was explained to me that some departments in our neighboring country of Mexico have little more than brooms to use in fighting fires and often battle blazes wearing street clothes. The equipment in question - though useable - no longer meets the industry standards of this country. It sits decaying in firehouses after being passed over by other donation requests. One man's trash can be another man's treasure.

With the nation coming to grips with the events of September 11, we all realize the need for a greater spirit of cooperation and humanitarianism.

But remember this effort and our further progress all comes at a price that we as citizens must pay. Your vote is the currency used in securing democracy. Use it. It can make a difference.

Royce West
Texas Senate

For more information, please call Kelvin Bass at 214-467-0123.

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