Another election night is over in Texas, but don't expect to feel it, at least not for a while. Voters in Dallas and around the state gave the legislature a big thumbs-up Tuesday night, overwhelmingly signing off on nine of the 10 amendments to the Texas Constitution on offer.
Both of the amendments receiving the most attention before the election — Proposition 4, which makes it harder for future Texas Legislatures to adopt a state income tax, and Proposition 10, which allows retiring police dogs to continue living with their handlers — passed. The only amendment that didn't, Proposition 1, would have allowed municipal judges to serve in more than one post. On nine of 10 propositions, Dallas County voters voted with their fellow Texans. Local voters broke with the rest of state by going against Proposition 9, which exempts precious metal held in state depositories from property taxes, by a 55-45 margin.
The fight over Proposition 4 was, before the election at least, the easiest to break down along partisan lines. Progressive groups fought against it, claiming it was a Trojan horse for a future sales-tax increase, while conservatives said the amendment was essential to maintain Texas' robust economy.
“Progressives successfully stopped a Republican sales tax in this year’s legislative session and, now that Prop 4 has passed, we’ll be back to stop a regressive sales tax hike again in the future,” Sam Robles, advocacy director at Progress Texas, said after the vote. “The state allows loopholes for property taxes on businesses, while homeowners bear an unfair burden to fund schools and state agencies. That’s why Progressives are fighting for a more equitable system that doesn’t balance the budget on the backs of working families.”
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Jeff Leach, a state representative from Collin County, celebrated 74% of voters signing off on the so-called income tax ban, which he championed in Austin this spring. Proposition 4 actually just requires an extra step to implement a state income tax, since Texas law already required voters sign off on such a plan.
"Tonight we heard loud & clear from our fellow Texans that they can be trusted to spend, save & steward their own hard-earned money better than any politician. The passage of Prop 4 is a monumental victory for those Texans of today and for future Texans of tomorrow," Leach, a Republican, said on Twitter.
Beyond the proposed constitutional amendment, the lone Texas House race on any Dallas County ballots, the squabble to fill new Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson's seat, is headed to a runoff between Democratic activist Lorraine Birabil and low-income housing developer James Armstrong III, also a Democrat. Armstrong secured his place in the runoff by just five votes over Daniel Clayton. The winner of the January runoff will have to win again in the state's March primary if he or she hopes to keep their seat for the next scheduled legislative session in 2021.
The good news in Dallas County, at least in relative terms, was turnout. After hovering in the low single digits through the end of last week, voter participation spiked to nearly 10% in the county thanks to those who showed up on Friday, the last day of early voting, and Election Day. Two years ago, during the state's last constitutional amendment election, turnout was less than 7%.