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Early Returns: A Runoff Ahead, Three Amendments Failing

By Brandi Grissom, Ross Ramsey and Lara Lapin, The Texas Tribune
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AUSTIN (The Texas Tribune) – Seven of ten proposed amendments to the state constitution had the approval of most Texas voters in early returns, and a legislative race in Brazos County appeared to be on its way to a runoff.

Lawmakers approved 10 changes to the Constitution during the legislative session, and the few voters who turned out appeared to like all but three of them. The three in trouble included Props 4, 7 and 8 — bonding authority for counties, a conservation district in El Paso, and tax breaks for landowners who practice good water stewardship. Two more — Props 2 and 6, authorizing water bonds and distributing more endowment money to schools — were passing with less than 52 percent of the vote, with 60 percent of the state’s voting precincts counted.

Only one race for state office appeared on the November ballot. In incomplete returns in Brazos County, Republicans Bob Yancy and John Raney appeared to be on their way to a runoff in the special election to fill the House seat vacated by state Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan. Three Republicans, a Democrat and a Libertarian were competing for the seat. Cities around the state, meanwhile — including Houston, Corpus Christi, Odessa and Midland — chose mayors and city council members.

Going into Election Day, voters seemed generally unexcited about getting to the polls. Only 2.1 percent of the state’s registered voters turned out for early voting in the state’s top 15 counties, according to the Texas secretary of state. Turnout was slightly higher in Travis and Harris counties, but in El Paso and Hidalgo counties, fewer than 1 percent voted early.

Here are the constitutional amendments:

Prop 1 would allow the surviving spouses of 100-percent disabled veterans to continue claiming an exemption from state property tax after the veteran dies.

Prop 2 would allow the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), the state’s water-planning agency, to lend up to $6 billion via a bond fund dedicated to building and fixing water infrastructure. The proposal would raise the water board’s outstanding bond limit by $4 billion.

Prop 3 would allow the Higher Education Coordinating Board to issue bonds that would fund low-interest student loans for college students without seeking voter approval every four to six years. Right now, the board must ask voters before raising its bond capacity. The board would be able to continue issuing bonds without seeking renewed voter approval as long as the amount doesn’t exceed $125 million.

Prop 4 would authorize the Legislature to let a county issue bonds to finance the development of underdeveloped, unproductive or blighted areas, pledging repayment from property tax revenues. Cities already have that authority.

Prop 5 would authorize the Legislature to allow cities and counties to enter into contracts with other cities and counties by easing tax assessment requirements currently in place.

Prop 6 would increases Texas schools’ revenue by allowing the General Land Office to distribute revenue from the Permanent School Fund and increase that fund’s market value. It would also authorize up to $300 million a year to be transferred directly from the State Land Board to the Available School Fund.

Prop 7 would allow a conservation and reclamation district to be created in El Paso County to maintain and create parks.

Prop 8 would authorize property tax breaks for landowners who practice good water stewardship.

Prop 9 would authorize the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication. Under the current Texas law, the governor may only pardon people who are convicted of a crime. If this proposal passes, it could give people convicted of more minor crimes the chance to ask for reprieves.

Prop 10 would require certain elected officials after announcing their candidacy for another office to resign if their current term does not expire within one year and 30 days.

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