Category Archives: voting

Learn what’s on the ballot for the Nov. 2019 election 

What’s this constitutional election buzz all about anyway?

You’ve probably been hearing about the importance of voting in the upcoming constitutional amendment election on Nov. 5, 2019. After all, it’s not every day that Texas voters have an opportunity to revise the Texas Constitution. This year, the 86th Texas Legislature passed 10 joint resolutions that propose amendments to the constitution and require voter approval. Every Texan who is registered to vote has the right to decide whether those 10 amendments become part of the state’s constitution. But only those who actually exercise that right to vote will get to determine whether the amendments become the law of the land or simply fade away.

Before you head to the polls with family and friends, do your homework and take a minute to learn about all 10 proposed amendments. We will cover two of the proposed amendments with direct correlation to public education here. Proposition 4 (HJR 38) impacts the potential for future establishment of a state income tax, and Proposition 7 (HJR 151) increases the amount the General Land Office can distribute from the Permanent School Fund to the Available School Fund each year from $300 million to $600 million.

Proposition 4 (HJR 38) as it will appear on the ballot reads as follows: “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”

Here’s what that really means:

Texas Proposition 4 modifies the current constitutional restrictions against legislative imposition of a state income tax. The state of Texas is widely known for not imposing a state income tax. The current state constitution in Article Vlll, sections 1(c) and 24, prohibits legislators from creating an income tax unless there is a statewide vote to approve such a tax. While polling suggests that it is unlikely that Texas voters would agree to an income tax, should that change, the current constitution also mandates how the revenue from any such income tax would have to be spent: two-thirds of the income tax revenue would go toward property tax reduction, while one-third of the income tax revenue would be spent on public education. This year’s Proposition 4 is designed to make it even less likely that Texans would ever pay a state income tax by repealing the current constitutional language referring to the statewide referendum and replacing it with language that simply prohibits the imposition of an “individual income tax” at the state level. The functional effect of this change is not to make it absolutely impossible for there to be an income tax in Texas in the future, but rather to increase the legislative votes necessary to overturn such a prohibition. Two-thirds of the legislature would have to agree to letting voters decide whether or not to add a state income tax in the future if this proposition passes in November.

A vote “for” Proposition 4 would mean that you agree with the proposition to change the current language in the constitution restricting a state income tax. A vote “against” Proposition 4 means that you prefer the current language in the constitution that prohibits a state income tax unless legislators vote to allow statewide voters to reject or approve the proposed tax, which would be used to fund property tax reduction and public education.

Proposition 7 (HJR 151) as it will appear on the ballot states as follows: “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”

Here’s what that really means:

Proposition 7 would potentially affect the source, but not necessarily the amount, of state education spending by allowing for larger distributions from the Permanent School Fund (PSF). The PSF is an endowment established under Section 2, Article Vll, of the Texas Constitution for the financial support of public schools in Texas. Management of the fund is divided between the State Board of Education (SBOE), which oversees managing the fund’s financial investment portfolio, and the General Land Office, which through the School Land Board manages the fund’s land or real estate investments. Currently a portion of the PSF is transferred to the Available School Fund (ASF) each year to be used to purchase instructional materials for students and provide additional funding for public education. The remainder of the PSF is held for future use. Proposition 7 seeks to increase the amount of state funding for public schools being paid out of the ASF by increasing the permissible amount of the annual distribution from the PSF to the ASF from $300 million to $600 million.

This increase alone would not result in an increase in overall public education funding. Without additional statutory changes, Proposition 7 would simply reduce the amount of funding the legislature would be required to spend from other funding sources to meet the state’s obligation to fund public education. However, as we reported here on Teach the Vote over the summer, it is not clear how significantly Proposition 7, if approved by voters, might reduce the state’s need to tap into general revenue to support public schools in future legislative sessions.

Does ATPE have a position on these two proposed constitutional amendments?

No. As stated in the ATPE Legislative Program approved each year by our House of Delegates, ATPE supports a public education funding system that is equitable and adequate to provide every student an equal opportunity to receive an exemplary public education. ATPE also supports any form of state revenue enhancement and tax restructuring that accomplishes this goal. However, ATPE does not have an official legislative position specifically on banning/supporting an income tax; nor do we have an official legislative position relating to the percentage of public education funding that comes from the PSF or ASF.

What else is on the ballot?

Proposed constitutional amendments for the Nov. 2019 election in Texas

Click here to view the ballot language for all 10 of the proposed constitutional amendments along with analysis from the Texas Legislative Council. Also, our friends at the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas (LWVTX) have put together a Constitutional Amendment Election Voters Guide that explains all the amendments and shares pro and con arguments along with a short video for each proposed amendment at the bottom of the page. It’s an easy-to-understand resource that ATPE encourages you to check out before you vote.

Special elections:

If you happen to live in one of three Texas House districts, you’ll also have a chance during the Nov. 2019 election to choose a new state representative. Three state representatives have resigned from their seats, necessitating special elections in those districts. The winner of each special election will serve out the remainder of the current term until Jan. 2021. Barring a special session being called by the governor, it is unlikely that those elected through November’s special election will have a chance to vote on any bills, but the winners of those special elections will be able to claim incumbent status next year, often deemed an advantage for anyone who decides to run for the same office in the regular election cycle that will take place in 2020.

These special elections for legislative seats will be taking place in House districts 28,100, and 148. In what the Texas Tribune has described as “the most closely watched race” this fall, ATPE’s lobby team has profiled the candidates seeking the House seat in district 28, which you can read here.

Other local ballot measures will vary throughout the state depending where you live. Voters can visit Vote411.org to view and print out a sample ballot showing exactly what will you will be voting on in your area.

Early voting runs from Oct. 21 through Nov. 1, and election day is Nov. 5, 2019.

Texas election roundup: Campaign finances

A new set of campaign finance reports has shed some light on the 2020 races for federal office around Texas.

Current U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is up for reelection and reported raising more than the entire field of Democratic challengers combined. Cornyn listed $3.2 million in donations for the third quarter, while his Democratic rivals posted a combined $2.8 million. Former congressional candidate M.J. Hegar raised $1 million, the most of the Democratic field, followed by $557,000 raised by Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards, and $550,000 raised by state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas). Cornyn listed nearly $11 million cash on hand, compared to $894,000 listed by Hegar. Cornyn has also outspent Hegar 12-to-one. Republican state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) announced this week that he will no longer pursue a primary challenge against Cornyn.

In competitive U.S. House of Representatives races, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX 2) outraised his Democratic rival Elisa Cardnell by $1.4 million to $100,000. Democrat Stephen Daniel edged out Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX 6) $111,000 to $106,000. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX 7) outraised her top Republican challenger $640,000 to $469,000. Democrats Shannon Hutcheson, Pritesh Gandhi, and Mike Siegel outraised Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX 10) $504,000 to $334,000. Former state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) nearly doubled Rep. Chip Roy’s (R-TX 21) fundraising total, $941,000 to $574,000, but Roy maintains nearly double the cash on hand reported by Davis. Democrats Kathaleen Wall and Sri Kulkarni led fundraising in TX-22, and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones posted a $1.1 million fundraising total in retiring Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-TX 23) district, which far exceeded all other contenders. Republican Beth Van Duyne leads the field in fundraising in TX-24, followed by Democrat Kim Olson, who maintains a cash advantage against Van Duyne. Rep. John Carter’s (R-TX-31) $152,000 fundraising total was just enough to beat the combined total of his nine Democratic challengers. Finally, Colin Allred (D-TX 32) outraised Republican challenger Genevieve Collins $583,000 to $458,000.

Voting is the single most powerful way educators can use their voices to make change happen. The elections beginning this November and lasting through November of 2020 have the potential to be the most consequential elections in a generation, so it is critical that you and everyone you know who is eligible is registered to vote. You can find more information and resources about voter registration and voting at TexasEducatorsVote.com.

Texas election roundup: Big shakeup at SBOE

Last week, outgoing State Board of Education (SBOE) chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) announced her plans to retire from the board. Following her announcement, a number of her Republican colleagues have also indicated plans to retire.

Donna Bahorich and Marty Rowley were photographed at a recent SBOE meeting. Both SBOE members have recently announced plans to retire from the board.

Member Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo) announced his plan to retire at the end of his current term, which expires in Jan. 2021. Rowley’s district is reliably Republican and covers much of West Texas. Past board chair Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) and Member Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio) have also announced plans to retire. Mercer’s district has shifted from a majority Republican district to one that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrat Beto O’Rourke carried Mercer’s district in 2018 with more than ten percent of the vote.

Candidates in this fall’s three special elections filed their 30-day-out campaign finance reports this week. As we expected, the House District (HD) 28 special election in Fort Bend County has drawn a significant amount of attention, where seven candidates are vying to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. John Zerwas. The lone Democrat in the race, educator Dr. Eliz Markowitz, reported raising $62,000, spending $16,000, and entering the final stretch with $38,000 cash on hand. Markowitz also received the endorsement of the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC this week. Republican neurosurgeon Dr. Anna Allred reported raising $159,000 during the reporting period, which is more than the other five Republicans in the HD 28 race combined. Allred has also retained Republican consultant Allen Blakemore, whose top client is Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Allred has spent $142,000 and heads into the final stretch with $86,000 on hand.

In addition to the HD 28 special election, the Nov. 5 election will give all Texas voters the chance to vote on 10 proposed constitutional amendments. The Texas League of Women Voters has put out a comprehensive guide to the proposals, which you can view here. You can also find additional election resources at the website for the Texas Educators Vote coalition. We’ll be posting additional resources to help you prepare for the constitutional election here on ATPE’s Teach the Vote blog next week, so be sure to check it out before you head to the polls. Early voting begins Oct. 21.

In Fort Bend County’s HD 28, a potential bellwether special election

On Nov. 5, 2019, voters statewide will weigh in on proposed constitutional amendments, but there are also a few special elections taking place that same day. A special election to fill the unexpired term of former state Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) will have plenty of eyeballs focused on House District (HD) 28 in Fort Bend County.

Six Republicans and one Democrat will face off to replace Rep. Zerwas, who resigned in order to work as a vice-chancellor for the University of Texas System. The Republicans in the race are Dr. Anna Allred, Gary Gates, Gary Hale, Tricia Krenek, Sarah Laningham, and Clinton Purnell. Dr. Eliz Markowitz is the lone Democrat in the race. Broken down by party, their background and positions relative to public education are outlined below.

Democrat:

  • Markowitz is a Katy educator who ran for the State Board of Education (SBOE) in 2018. Her website focuses on public education issues, including a detailed education policy platform. Markowitz supports reducing STAAR testing, improving school funding, and better teacher pay, while explicitly opposing private school vouchers. Markowitz has been endorsed by the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC.

Republican:

  • Allred is a Houston anesthesiologist who lists technical training among her education priorities on her campaign website.
  • Gates is a Rosenberg real estate investor who lost a runoff for the Texas Railroad Commission in 2016. Gates also ran unsuccessfully for the HD 28 seat back in 2002 and 2004. On his campaign website, he lists his positions as “protect tax payers,” “support our schools,” “defend 2nd amendment,” and “enhance school safety,” but does not offer additional information as to his views on those issues.
  • Hale is a former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence officer from Katy. On his website, Hale expresses support for arming teachers with firearms and returning to corporal punishment as a potential solution to school shootings.
  • Krenek is a Katy attorney who lost a 2018 race for Fort Bend County commissioner. Her website includes some education policy positions, such as increasing the state’s share of education funding, changing school finance “to reduce Robin Hood recapture payments,” and funding “additional across-the-board teacher pay raises.”
  • Laningham lives in Richmond and is a small business owner. Her campaign website makes no mention of education issues. She also ran for state representative last year in House District 14, but had no campaign website that ATPE could locate at that time.
  • A campaign website could not be found for Purnell, but his LinkedIn profile lists his occupation as “global logistics manager and corporate trade compliance” in Houston.

The HD 28 race is one of three special elections scheduled this fall, along with HD 148 in Houston and HD 100 in Dallas. The latter are not competitive districts from the standpoint of potential partisan shifts, but the math in HD 28 makes it a swing district, where a candidate from either party has a legitimate chance at winning the seat. Zerwas, a popular long time incumbent, won his reelection in 2018 by only eight percentage points. In doing so, he outperformed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who won the district by just three points. Cruz’s margin represents a steady decline in Republican support in HD 28, which handed a ten percent margin to Donald Trump in 2016 and a 35-point margin to Greg Abbott in 2014.

Republicans hold a nine-seat majority in the Texas House. The winner of the HD 28 special election will serve out the rest of the term and will have to run for reelection again in 2020.

Voting is the single most important thing an educator can do to ensure the Texas Legislature prioritizes public schools and students. The deadline to register to vote in this special election and other November elections is Oct. 7, 2019. To see if you are registered and to check out a variety of election-related information, visit TexasEducatorsVote.com. As a reminder, early voting begins Oct. 21, and election day is Nov. 5.

Texas election roundup: Change of address and no take-backs

This week’s election news included a couple of eyebrow-raising developments. After announcing plans to leave the legislature to run for a local county commissioner position, state Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury) changed his mind and said he now plans to run for reelection after all.

In late-breaking news Friday, former State Board of Education (SBOE) Chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) announced she will not seek reelection. Bahorich chaired the board for the past two terms and was succeeded by Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin), who was sworn in as new board chair last week. While Bahorich won reelection by nearly 12 percentage points in 2016, her SBOE District 6 voted for Beto O’Rourke in 2018 by a four point margin.

Former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX 32) announced he will move from Dallas, where he lost his reelection bid to Democrat Colin Allred, to Waco, where he will run to fill the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX 17). U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX 13) became the sixth Texas Republican to announce his retirement ahead of the 2020 elections, leaving an opening in this solidly Republican, Amarillo-based district. In other federal races, Julian Castro told the audience at last weekend’s Texas Tribune Festival that he will not challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) should the former San Antonio mayor’s Democratic presidential campaign conclude unsuccessfully.

A poll commissioned by Democrats surveying six Texas congressional races indicated close races for several Republican incumbents, including U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX 10), Chip Roy (R-TX 21), and John Carter (R-TX 31). The poll pitted a generic Republican against a generic Democrat in six Republican-held districts targeted by Democrats. A generic Democrat lead in two of those races: Texas’s 23rd Congressional District, where Rep. Will Hurd is retiring, and the 24th, where Rep. Kenny Marchant is retiring. From Public Policy Polling:

“Republicans have small advantages in the 10th District (49-46), 22nd District (49-45), 21st District (49-44), and 31st District (51-44) but across the board it looks like new opportunities are opening up for Democrats in places in Texas that never would have been imaginable even just 4 years ago.”

State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton), who sits on the committee that oversees educators’ pensions, was among several Texas House members who announced this week they plan to run for reelection. Amid the steady flow of similar announcements, at least one member – state Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) – alternatively suggested it’s safe to assume he’s running for reelection until he states otherwise.

Former state Rep. Mike Schofield, who worked as a staffer for state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) during the 86th Texas Legislature, announced plans to run against state Rep. Gina Calanni (D-Katy). Calanni defeated Schofield in 2018 by just over a hundred votes.

Finally, the deadline is Monday to register to vote in time for this November’s elections. This is critically important if you live in one of the districts where special elections are taking place on Nov. 5 to replace state representatives who have stepped down prior to the expiration of their terms. One race in particular, the special election in northwest Fort Bend County’s House District (HD) 28 to replace former state Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), is expected to be close. Learn more about how to register to vote from our coalition partners at TexasEducatorsVote.com.

Remember, exercising your voice at the ballot box is the most powerful thing you can do to support public education!

Texas election roundup: More legislative race dropouts

This week continues to see Texas legislators dropping out of the 2020 contest.

State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) announced he will not seek reelection in House District (HD) 138. Rep. Bohac won reelection by less than one percentage point in 2018, and his district has voted for the Democrat at the top of the ballot in the last two elections.

State Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury) also announced he would not run for reelection in HD 60 in order to run for Hood County commissioner. Rep. Lang’s district is safely Republican, but Lang faced a serious primary challenge from public education advocate Jim Largent in the 2018 election cycle. During the 2019 legislative session, Lang chaired the House Freedom Caucus, which has consistently advocated for school privatization.

State Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) received another boost in his campaign to succeed retiring state Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) in Senate District (SD) 29, announcing the endorsement of State Board of Education (SBOE) Member Georgina Perez (D-El Paso) this week. Rep. Blanco has already locked down the support of El Paso’s Texas House delegation.

A new poll out by the University of Texas-Tyler shows Joe Biden leading the field of Democratic presidential candidates among Texas Democrats or Independents who lean toward the Democratic Party, registering the support of 27.7 percent of respondents. Biden was followed by Beto O’Rourke at 18.9 percent, Bernie Sanders at 17.0 percent, and Elizabeth Warren at 10.9 percent. All other candidates were under ten percent. The poll, composed of 1,199 registered voters and conducted online between September 13 and September 15, showed 43.1 percent of respondents identified themselves along the “conservative” spectrum, while 29.7 identified as “moderate” and 27.1 identified along the “liberal” spectrum.

Tuesday of this week marked National Voter Registration Day, an annual event aimed at encouraging eligible citizens of voting age to make sure they are registered to vote. The deadline for registration in time to vote in the November 5, 2019, constitutional and special elections is October 7. Find out if your registration is current and check out a variety of voter resources by visiting our Texas Educators Vote coalition website at TexasEducatorsVote.com.

Reminder: National Voter Registration Day, Sept. 24

Today is National Voter Registration Day (NVRD).

Recognized each year on the fourth Tuesday of September, this is a great day for educating students about the voter registration process and reminding your friends and family members about the importance of being registered. We at ATPE encourage you to use the hashtag #NationalVoterRegistrationDay in your social media posts to help us spread the word today.

As a reminder, Oct. 7 is the deadline to register to vote in this November’s election, where several proposed constitutional amendments will be on the ballot for Texas voters.

Find additional tips for educators participating in NVRD today here, courtesy of the Texas Educators Vote coalition of which ATPE is a member.

National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019

This Tuesday, September 24, is National Voter Registration Day (NVRD). Started in 2012, NVRD is a national day of recognition dedicated to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to vote. NVRD, which takes place every fourth Tuesday of September, is a great opportunity for educators to inform students and their parents about the voter registration process. For tips on how to participate in National Voter Registration Day as an educator, ATPE suggests this blog post from the Texas Educators Vote coalition.

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election (which is also the date for some special elections for vacant legislative seats) is Oct. 7. Early voting begins Oct. 21. To learn more about the proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, read this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins. As the 2020 elections grow closer, we’ll continue to post news updates here on our Teach the Vote blog, as well as profiles of the candidates running for seats in the Texas Legislature and State Board of Education. But you can’t vote unless you are registered, so check your voter registration status today and remind your friends to do the same! Here are some helpful links:

  1. Check your voter registration status here to make sure it’s up to date and active.
  2. Click here for a Texas voter registration application that you can print out and mail in. Or use this link to request a voter registration application to be mailed to you.
  3. Send your completed voter registration application to the voter registrar in your county. Find a list of county contacts here.

Texas election roundup: More Senate shakeups

Big election news continues to come out of the Texas Senate, where state Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) announced last week that he will not seek reelection, and state Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) followed with an announcement that he will seek Rodriguez’s open seat next year.

Sen. Rodriguez has been one of the most consistent champions of public education in the Texas Senate, and his Senate District (SD) 29 is securely in Democratic hands. Beto O’Rourke carried SD 29 by nearly 49 percentage points in 2018, and Rodriguez has not faced serious opposition in recent years. Rep. Blanco chairs the House Democratic Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the Texas House, and announced he has already secured the endorsements of fellow state Reps. Art Fierro (D-El Paso), Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), Joe Moody (D-El Paso), and Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass), as well as U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX 16).

Other state representatives continue to announce plans to return to office. State Reps. Will Metcalf (R-Conroe), Brad Buckley (R-Salado), and Hugh Shine (R-Temple) all announced plans to run for reelection.

In the race for U.S. Senate, former U.S. Congressman and 2006 Democratic nominee for governor Chris Bell formally entered the race against incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn. Bell is one of nine candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the U.S. Senate race, including state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) and former congressional candidate and U.S. Air Force veteran MJ Hegar.

Tuesday, September 24, is National Voter Registration Day. The goal of this national, non-partisan event is to increase civic participation by registering hundreds of thousands of voters on Tuesday. It was launched in 2012 and has grown in popularity ever since, thanks to the help of non-partisan organizations such as the League of Women voters and the Texas Educators Vote coalition, of which ATPE is a member. Read this post by our friends at Texas Educators Vote to find out how you can participate.

Texas election roundup: Another big retirement

The big news so far this week has been U.S. Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX 17) announcing his retirement and intention not to run for reelection in 2020. Flores defeated longtime Waco Democrat Rep. Chet Edwards in the Republican wave election of 2010. Flores won reelection in 2018 by nearly 16 percentage points, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz beat Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by just over nine points in the district.

The field of candidates in three special elections scheduled for Nov. 5 has been set. After the close of the filing deadline, a total of 26 candidates had declared campaigns to succeed state Reps. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), Jessica Farrar (D-Houston), and Eric Johnson (D-Dallas). The most competitive race will be for the seat being vacated by Rep. Zerwas in House District (HD) 28, which both Zerwas and Cruz won by single-digit margins in 2018. One Democrat and six Republicans have filed for the seat. The full list of candidates in this fall’s special elections can be found in this post by the Texas Tribune.

The 2020 elections pose a major test of the resolve of educators to hold their elected representatives to account for legislation passed and legislation promised. Things like school funding and educator pay will almost certainly be on the chopping block when the Texas Legislature returns in 2021, which makes your votes all the more important. If you are not yet registered to vote in Texas, the deadline to do so in time for this November’s elections is October 7. If you’re not yet registered or unsure what to do, just follow this link to the Texas Educators Vote coalition website.