Thursday, October 13, 2011
Most political elections in this country are decided by less than a majority of eligible voters. One example is the 2010 General Election where in Texas 32.3% of the eligible voters decided who won. That means 67.7% of the eligible voters had no voice in their government. Remember we are talking "eligible" voters. There are lots of folks who unfortunately do not even register to vote.
Now, if you think that is low voter turnout I would certainly agree with you. However, Constitutional Elections are notorious for low voter turnout. The Constitutional Election in November, 2009 had a turnout, are you ready for this, of 8.18%. There ought to be a law, and if you do not take the time to vote on the upcoming proposed constitutional amendments there in fact could be several new laws.
There are a total of ten proposed amendments to our state constitution. Those that are passed by the voters will become the law of the land. You need to study the proposals and decided on your position as to the positive or negative effects it could have on Milam County and Texas.
Constitutional elections can be very confusing. Take for instance Amendment 7 is to be voted on by the entire state, but will only affect El Paso County. So why does the entire state vote on it? It takes a vote of the entire state to change the state constitution even if it will only affect one county.
Amendment 1 if passed could provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the residence of a widow of a 100% or totally disabled veteran. Amendment 8 also relates to creating another ad valorem tax exemption.
While property tax exemptions might sound good remember that those taxes exempted have to be made up somewhere. That somewhere is those of us that do not qualify for the new exemption.
Amendment 10 relates to the resign to run rule. Currently the state constitution provides that an elected office holder at the county level automatically resigns from their office if they announce their intention to run for another office with a year or more remaining in their current term.
During the last legislative session Austin changed the filing dates from December 1st to January 2nd to November 12th through December 12th for the upcoming political season. Basically this means if say a Milam County Constable wanted to run for Sheriff he would have to file with more than 365 days left in his term and as a result of filing for another office automatically resign from the current office.
Amendment 10 will change the constitution and provide for lengthening the time that results in an automatic resignation. Instead of one year this proposed amendment will change the time periods to one year and thirty days. It is also interesting to note that the amendment will take effect if passed by the voters in time to apply to the upcoming political season.
Too bad the resign to run rule law does not apply to the Governors office. Just think how much money we Texas tax payers could be saving on security costs we are paying while Rick runs for president.
Of course Mr. Transparency in Government Perry lobbied hard during the last special session this summer to make sure we would not know the cost to Texas for his political ambitions till after the presidential race is over. He managed to get a bill passed that would keep financial information related to his security from the public for 18 months. Government transparency? Really?
Point is folks you really need to brush up on the proposed amendments for the November 8th election. You need to let your friends know that they too need to cast their votes on November 8th. The upcoming vote may well be more important than the candidate races in that you get a chance to vote against the person next time around. An amendment to the constitution is much harder to come by and you might not get a second chance to change the law.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Many of my blogs are interpreted by some as attacks on Judge Barkemeyer. While they do express my opinion which in many cases is opposite or out of line with Judge Barkemeyer's I can assure you I have a great deal of respect for the job he is doing and do agree with many things he has accomplished.
However, I do have a real problem with his recent article of September 28th where he expounds on the many benefits of the Veteran's office in Milam County, and concludes his article on how he and the Commissioners Court will be looking at cutting up to a third of the budget to bring Milam County more in line with other similar counties. I have to wonder why he does not take that "other similar counties" idea into consideration for the redistricting process.
He mentions in his article that Veterans Administration payments coming into Milam County total almost $14 million per year. He also mentions the budget for 2012 for the Veterans Office is "... just over $89,000..." If you do a little math using the Judge's figures you will find that for every one dollar of the $89,000 spent it returns over 157 dollars to the Milam County economy. Not a bad return on our investment.
He mentions part-time offices in his article as well. Our veterans did not serve part-time and they deserve more than part-time service. Their efforts is what allows Dave to write his articles and me to in turn freely speak my mind. We owe our freedom to our veterans. Freedom for Americans is not part-time.
This particular issue sort of hits close to home for me as well. No, I am not a veteran, but have recently had some personal experience with our local Veterans Officer . We all know that with any government program there is "red tape" to wade through. I can testify that the Veterans Administration paperwork is a lot more than the average individual can handle. Each mistake or omission delays the process of obtaining benefits even longer.
My Mother-in-Law had a stroke and is confined to a long term care facility. She is the widow of a WW II vet who fought in the European theater. As a widow of a veteran she is entitled to certain VA benefits. Benefits that she would most likely not be receiving today if not for the efforts of Ken Janicek and his staff.
My Mother-in-Law is not the only example. While serving as County Judge there were a number of veterans who came to the office, called and wrote letters in support of the Veterans Service Office.
There are a lot of other areas to cut. If you consider the Judge is proposing to cut one third of the budget, and that amounts to right around 29,000 dollars it really is not that much. Each Commissioner could donate 7,500 dollars from their almost million dollar budgets, or their reserves and bingo.
Bottom line is we owe our veterans our respect and thanks rather than making it more difficult to obtain what they have earned. And never forget many of them earned it the hard way.
Friday, October 7, 2011
In leadership positions in local government it is sometimes very difficult to do the right thing. I recently commented on the lack of leadership being shown by the Milam County Commissioners Court for the stance they took on our current economic situation. I now must congratulate the Rockdale ISD School Board for their stance on next year's budget.
An article in the September 22nd edition of the Rockdale Reporter reported members of the school board approved a tax increase for the 2012 school year budget. Part of the article read as follows:
Rockdale ISD trustees voted unanimously to adopt a ninetenths of a cent tax rate increase for 2011-2012 during their regular monthly meeting Monday night in the Central Administration Building.
The $1.225 tax rate is up slightly from the current $1.2135.
Marla Wallace, chief financial officer, said the increase is in response to Luminant’s lawsuit over values at its Sandow Power Plant. She told board members that the adopted amount may still be short.
This is one of the same issues that faces Milam County in the coming months. Just how will the court rule on the Luminant suit, and what effect could that ruling have on Milam County government?
While the Commissioners Court took the do not worry stance it might go away members of the school board made the tough decision and raised taxes to prepare for possibilities of the future.
They have taken the steps to keep the school running if things do go Liminant's way, and they can always adjust the rate next year if the ruling does go in favor of the taxing entities. The point is they did something other than bury their heads in the sand.
The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. Hoping for the best might be considered a vision by some, but by others it is purely a lack of leadership. Or maybe just the inability to make the tough decisions.