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Senate committee whines about ballot language

Give me a break.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, cited the wording of recent Houston referendums to lengthen term limits and on a controversial equal-rights ordinance as two examples, both of which he said could have been more clear.

The committee is studying whether state law needs to be changed to ensure that local and state ballots more accurately describe what voters are being asked to decide.

“We should all want a common-sense law or a common-sense standard,” said Bettencourt, who like other members of the committee usually argue for less state regulation. “Ballots should be clear for voters to understand what it is they’re voting on.”


James Quintero, director of the Center for Local Governance at the Texas Public Policy Foundation a conservative group that carries clout with the Republican-dominated Legislature, said “muddy ballot language” and missing information pose problems. He said the wording of ballot language has been at issue in Houston last month, on a term-limits change that was approved and the Equal Rights Ordinance that was voted down.

Let’s be clear about two things here. One is that for all the fuss, there has been exactly one ballot initiative for which an unfavorable ruling on its language has been given, that being ReNew Houston. The final HERO ballot language was approved by the Supreme Court, and the term limits lawsuit has yet to see the inside of a courtroom. Maybe someday it will provide a second such example, but if so that day is probably several years off.

And two, this is of a piece with the recent Greg Abbott-led Republican obsession with the state meddling in the affairs of Texas cities. The cities tend to have more Democratic leadership, and they tend to be pretty activist about tackling problems that affect them. Both of those things are now officially annoying to Abbott and an increasing number of legislators. I have no particular interest in the term limits bill – remember, I voted against it – but I can smell the BS from here. The state has plenty of its own issues to deal with. Get back to me when the rest of the house is in order.

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One Comment

  1. matx says:

    All that I associate Bettencourt with is “quitter” – he got elected due to name recognition after the private sector apparently didn’t pan out.