This article is a part of our ongoing coverage on Election Ethics. Read the full series here.
Eleven party propositions — ranging from toll roads to property taxes to the selection of a House speaker — will be on the Texas Republican primary ballot next year.
Several of the measures stake out positions diametrically opposed to lame duck House Speaker Joe Straus and his leadership team.
Meeting in Austin, state Republican leaders on Saturday voted to put these propositions on the March 6 ballot for a public “yes” or “no” vote:
- Texas should replace the property tax system with an appropriate consumption tax equivalent.
- No governmental entity should ever construct or fund construction of toll roads without voter approval.
- Republicans in the Texas House should select their nominee by secret ballot in a binding caucus without Democrat influence.
- Texas should require employers to screen new hires through the free E-Verify system to protect jobs for legal workers.
- Texas families should be empowered to choose from public private, charter, or home-school options for their children’s education, using tax credits or exemptions without government constraints or intrusion.
- Texas should protect the privacy and safety of women and children in spaces such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers in all Texas schools and government buildings.
- I believe abortion should be abolished in Texas.
- Vote fraud should be a felony in Texas to help ensure fair elections.
- Texas demands that Congress completely repeal Obamacare.
- To slow the growth of property taxes, yearly revenue increases should be capped at 4 percent, with increases in excess of 4 percent requiring voter approval.
- Tax dollars should not be used to fund the building of stadiums for professional or semi-professional sports teams.
Typically, only four or five party propositions get to the ballot, noted Mark Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute. He could not recall a year when the number hit double digits.
But Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey said the State Republican Executive Committee opted to put up a big list for 2018. The SREC dropped a proposed measure concerning Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s controversial “Re-imagined” Alamo project in favor of the ballot line on toll roads.
The measures do not have the force of law, but approval or disapproval is a barometer for state lawmakers to gauge public sentiment in crafting legislation.
Several propositions repudiate the retiring Straus, who blocked property tax reform, school choice, and the “bathroom bill” at the 2017 Legislature.
Ballot measure No. 3, choosing future House speakers, aims at reforming the selection process to ensure that the chamber’s top position reflects the will of the majority party. Straus maintained the speakership with the unified backing of minority Democrats.
The House Republican Caucus on Friday voted unanimously to establish a process to nominate an “endorsed” speaker candidate. Under the rules, two-thirds support from caucus members present would be required to win the nomination. If that cannot be obtained, the threshold would fall to three-fifths.
“We finally have a process to elect the House speaker nominee from the Republican Party,” said Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg.
Biedermann was among the caucus members who supported a simple majority vote for nomination — per the party platform — but he acknowledged that a two-thirds agreement “would be so great, so powerful, so unifying.”
The SREC-approved ballot measure would bind caucus members to vote the caucus’s choice.
Separately, the state party is asking all House candidates in the 2018 election to say whether they would support the consensus of the caucus in the speaker vote.
“We need someone to get the greatest majority possible,” Biedermann said. “If [caucus members] don’t vote for that person [on the floor], they will be exposed.”