It's not just who's on the ballot. It's what

Posted December 28, 2017 1:17 p.m. EST

AUSTIN, Texas -- Now that we know who's on the March primary ballots (and who isn't), let's talk about what's on those ballots.

Because it's what they do, the Dems and Repubs have loaded up (down?) those ballots with nonbinding propositions that are more boilerplate statements of principles than questions on which they're seeking actual input.

I wish they wouldn't do this. I also wish for world peace, an end to hunger and another World Series title in my lifetime for my New York Mets.

So, because some percentage of us will vote in one or the other of the primaries, I'm going to do my civic duty here and shed some light on the props so you can start doing your research as you work your way toward an informed vote. Oh, by the way, it kind of doesn't matter how you vote. These things always pass.

Let's start with the Dems, who are very proud of the "Our Texas Bill of Rights" they've put on their primary ballot. The Dems are billing this as "12 Big, Bold Ideas to Save Texas." Feel free to vote against any or all of the big, bold ideas to save Texas.

So let's look at a few of the ideas that Texas Democrats seem to believe are the last hope for Texas' salvation. Again, I'm predicting "yes" will prevail on all of these.

Prop 1: "Should everyone in Texas have the right to quality public education from pre-K to 12th grade, and affordable college and career training without the burden of crushing loan debt?"

Sure you do, though you might also have some questions about how to pay for all that good stuff. Ditto for Prop 3: "Should everyone in Texas have a right to health care, guaranteed by a universal, quality Medicare-for-all system?"

The Dems' Prop 6 also seems like a no-brainer: "Should everyone in Texas have the right to clean air, safe water and a healthy environment?" I see that passing. Heck, it's such a no-brainer that it probably could get upwards of 35 percent of the vote on a GOP primary ballot.

Prop 7: "Should everyone in Texas have the right to a life of dignity and respect, free from discrimination and harassment anywhere, including businesses and public facilities, no matter how they identify, the color of their skin, who they love, socioeconomic status, or from where they come?"

Somewhere there's a Dem who's going to vote against that because he or she doesn't think GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is entitled to a life of dignity and respect and should be subject to periodic harassment.

And the Dems' Prop 8 concerns a "right to housing," defined to include high-speed internet access, something Texas founders somehow overlooked back when they were founding.

The Dems' dozen props top the Repubs' list by one. And while the Dems focused on how to spend government money, the Repubs predictably start off on the supply side of government dollars. Prop 1: "Texas should replace the property tax system with an appropriate consumer tax equivalent. Yes/No." (Shouldn't "maybe" also be an option?)

GOP voters also will be asked whether toll roads should be barred without voter approval, whether the Texas House speaker should be chosen by "secret ballot in a binding caucus without Democrat influence" and whether "abortion should be abolished in Texas." Your only choices are Yes or No, which is too bad because the best answers would be toll roads should only be allowed if Toll House cookies are involved, the House speaker should be chosen by a free-throw shooting contest and it would be illegal to make abortion illegal in Texas.

Back in 2016, the Dems had six props on their primary ballot. All passed, though 7.7 percent voted against a "new Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect all American voters" and 22.6 percent voted against allowing all Texas universities, not just the private ones, to ban guns in campus buildings.

The Repubs had four props on their 2016 primary ballot, all of which won solid support. But 30.5 percent of GOP voters opposed replacing the property tax with something other than an income tax and requiring voter approval to "increase the tax burden."

And a relatively high 37.2 percent opposed requiring Texas cities and counties "to comply with federal immigration laws or be penalized by loss of state funds."

So start doing your homework on these props. And as we move into an election year of some note, here's an early tidbit worth noting. State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, is running for the U.S. House seat now held by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, who's not seeking re-election.

There are 18 names on the GOP ballot so a guy's got to do something to stand out. Isaac's going with this semi-catchy catchphrase that invites the mind to wander: "Make America Like Texas."

I'd like to see that as a Yes/No prop on the ballot nationwide.

Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman. Email: kherman(at)statesman.com.

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