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State of Wise: Hearing held on Fallon’s school election bill

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, March 23, 2019
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The Senate’s Property Tax committee held a hearing Tuesday on a bill to move all school district elections to November, which was filed by District 30 Senator Pat Fallon (R-Prosper).

The bill was left pending in committee.

In presenting the bill to the committee, Fallon pointed out that participation in May elections are much smaller than November elections.

“Most people by far vote in the November election cycles, yet elections for school trustees in most school districts in Texas are held in May when the fewest number of people traditionally vote,” Fallon said. “There was a time when Texas had four uniform election dates, but now have two. Though Texans pay more property tax to local school districts than any other subdivision, elections for officials who decide how the bulk of their tax dollars are spent are when the fewest number of voters participate. School districts hold bond elections to authorize hundreds of millions of dollars in debt when no other elections are being held and fewer voters are participating.”

Fallon continued by pointing out the high turnout for the 2016 and 2018 November elections, contrasting that to the single-digit turnouts for May elections.

“If we hold elections in November when more people are participating, our election results will better reflect the will of Texans,” Fallon said.

Highlighting the number of elections last year in Frisco, he suggested the number of elections were “disenfranchising our own voters.”

The committee chairman Paul Bettencourt voiced support for the bill.

Asked about the bill before the hearing, Fallon said school districts will need to plan accordingly with its bond proposals.

“We want to maximize participation,” Fallon said.

Two people spoke in favor of the bill.

Fallon also filed Senate Bill 1418, which would shrink early voting from 17 days before an election to 10 days. Polls would be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“The general early voting period is too long,” Fallon said. “I want to expand the hours but shorten the days. It’ll require less man hours for the poll workers, and we can pay people more.”

The bill has been forwarded to State Affairs.

KING’S TIER 2 BILL FORWARDED

Texas District 61 Rep. Phil King’s (R-Weatherford) bill to eliminate involuntary annexation statewide and make all counties TIER 2 received a 7-0 favorable vote out the House Land and Resource Committee.

After the committee hearing March 5, King expected the bill to be forwarded.

“It was an extremely positive hearing,” King said.

Bryson Boyd, who led the TIER 2 effort in Wise County, testified at the hearing. Wise County voters overwhelmingly approved the measure to block home rule cities from annexing land involuntarily.

“The cities of Bridgeport and Decatur both started a land grab attempt of over 1,500 acres which sparked our group’s efforts. It took us 426 days of 24/7 hard work and a little over $47,000 to have a successful campaign like we did,” Boyd said.

“Wise County has over 39,000 registered voters and our petition collected 6,118 signatures over the six-month period we were alloted. Our ballot measure passed 15,289 votes to 4,567 votes. We know many of these votes against were made in error because of the ballot language that was given to us.”

Boyd added the biggest issue was educating voters.

“The everyday person does not understand the difference between a TIER 1 and TIER 2 county unless you are in it every day like we were,” Boyd said.

“It is very difficult to collect the signatures and educate an entire county of people…This bill will allow the rest of the state to be on the same level playing field as everyone else.”

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