Grassroots Guide: Saying NO to Debt from Bonds
Grassroots Guide: Texas Laws Every Grassroots Worker Should Know
Understanding Municipal Elections
Municipal elections are “non-partisan,” meaning that the candidates are not running on a specific party ticket. However, these races are often considered as a way to “build the bench” for future partisan races. Many candidates will be strong Republicans — and many will be Democrats, fighting for a foothold against the values we cherish. Please do your research to be certain you are supporting the candidates who best uphold our conservative principles of lower taxes, less government intrusion, and more personal responsibility.
Likewise, the propositions do not originate from either party, but many of them will be clearly supporting or opposing our Republican principles. Please be sure to study the propositions before you go to vote.
Because these elections are so important, we’ve prepared some resources to help you promote Republican candidates and issues!
One issue that most of you will see on your ballot is propositions regarding bonds. Since this is a complex issue and one that directly relates to our Party’s platform, we’ve prepared an infosheet to help you understand the issue and communicate your thoughts to others. Please click here to see the Grassroots Guide: Saying NO to Bond Debt.
Whether you’re promoting your viewpoint on an issue or on a candidate, it’s important to understand the laws. If you’ll be campaigning, you’ll want to know what the Texas Election Code says about polling place activity, poll watchers, block walking, and time off to vote. Please click here to see the Grassroots Guide: Texas Laws for Grassroots Workers.
Saying NO to Debt from Bonds
In almost every election, voters are asked by their local taxing entities to approve a bond package. Bonds are debt in which local governments borrow money to pay for things like schools, roads, or infrastructure. When voters approve the bonds, they are promising to pay back the loan with interest. Unfortunately, bonds by definition increase the debt and the overall tax burden of the taxpayers.
If your ballot includes a bond package that you believe would be bad debt, you can save yourself and your fellow taxpayers by helping voters say NO to bonds at the ballot box.
Find out more details about the specific bond on YOUR local ballot by locating the following items.
- Sample Ballot — search “______ County Elections Sample Ballot” (for your county) to find the ballot wording for the bond package
- Bond Order — look on the entity’s website or submit a public information request to find the full bond agreement [this will tell you exactly what you are voting on; the details of the bond are NOT all included in the ballot language]
- Video and/or Audio of Bond Committee Meetings — this may be available on the internet or on social media [find out all you can about how your taxing entity went about preparing and structuring this bond package before bringing it to a vote]
- Online Check Registers — examine the entity’s spending habits [if you find examples of wasteful spending (ex. expensive meals or trips), you will want to let people know that perhaps with a simple change in money management, your community might not have to go into debt to fund the projects]
- Superintendent Contract / Staff Salaries / Elected Official Salaries / Budgets — examine the entity’s budget and how they allocate all their funds [How do administrators’ salaries compare with other positions? Are funds being spent on superfluous activities instead of necessary major building maintenance? Are you paying for a house/car/phone allowance for a Superintendent while the roof is leaking? Are there mandatory raises?]
|The Public Information Act says that government entities must give copies of certain documents to people who request them within 10 business days. To make your request, just send a request in writing to that agency. See more information at https://www.nfoic.org/texas-sample-foia-request|
Talk to Your Community
Most Republican-leaning voters don’t want to be saddled with even more debt, but bonds can be difficult to understand. Many may not know the consequences of their votes. Help them out by sharing the information you have gathered. Here are some ways to get your message through.
Basic talking points
- Bonds are debt, and debt increases our overall tax burden. Taxes are already too high — residents need tax relief, not increases.
- Whatever debt is incurred today will have to be paid off by our children and grandchildren tomorrow. Our debt puts them in bondage.
- Bonds are a tax hike.
- Debt in this area is already [_______]. This bond will [double /triple] the amount of debt, just in principal alone [add a conservative estimate for interest to reflect the increase to the debt beyond the principal amount of the bond]
- Wasteful spending is rampant [verify this in your districts; give examples of what you found in the documents in Step 1].
- Every vote matters. Some bond elections are decided by a couple dozen votes or less.
|Each person with whom you speak may have a different — and legitimate — compelling reason to oppose the bond. Help them understand how bad debt hurts them personally.|
Send a note to the editor of your local newspaper. Many media outlets have online submission forms. Here’s an example — be sure to add in the correct details.
“[City name] is a great city full of great people, but this new $_____________ school bond proposal does more harm to the community than it does in meeting the needs of the school system. While we want the best education for our students, the improvements to the schools will not necessarily make their way into the classrooms, will not increase teacher pay, and will increase our maintenance and operations budget drastically — likely hurting our teacher salary budget. This bond will also increase our debt and our overall tax burden at a time when people all over the state are suffering from higher taxes. I’ll be voting NO to bad debt, and I hope you’ll join me!”
Sample Block-walking/Phone-banking Script
Being a social media warrior is great, but there’s nothing like actually getting out and hitting the road to talk to your neighbors. Many times all they need is a neighbor at their door offering good information in order to vote NO to bad debt. Ask your local county chair or precinct chair for help in finding walk lists or call lists through data available to them through the RPT.
Here’s a sample of what you can say when you’re block walking or making phone calls.
“Hello! My name is ________ with the Say No To Bad Debt campaign. Have you heard about this $__________ bond that will increase our tax burden?”
Tell them why you’re voting no. Let them know it will be on the ballot and when to vote.
It is important to stay within the law when you begin to run a campaign and start handling money. Here are a few tips:
- If you plan to spend more than $500 on materials, you’ll need to either start your own Specific Purpose PAC (Political Action Committee) or collaborate with a General Purpose PAC already in existence that wants to fight bonds. Please consult legal counsel as necessary.
- Familiarize yourself with electioneering laws. See Grassroots Guide: Texas Laws on Election Activism.
For the Republican Party of Texas position on debt, see our Party Platform at https://www.texasgop.org/republican-party-texas-platform-2016/ (specifically Planks 175, 178, and 179)
Texas Laws Every Grassroots Worker Should Know
Note: Citations are from the Texas Election Code (www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/?link=EL)
- You may not electioneer or loiter within 100 feet of an outside door through which a voter may enter the building in which a polling place is located. [Sec. 61.003]
- Bystanders are not allowed in the polling place. [Sec. 61.001]
- Candidates are not allowed in the polling place. [Sec. 61.001]
- No loudspeakers, amplification devices or other sound equipment are allowed within 1,000 feet of a building in which a polling place is located. [Sec. 61.004]
- Inside a polling place, a person may not indicate to a voter by word, sign, or gesture how the person desires the voter to vote or not vote. [Sec. 61.008]
- Within 100 feet of, or inside a polling place, you may not wear a badge, insignia, emblem, or other similar communicative device relating to a candidate, measure, or political party. [Sec. 61.010]
- Within 100 feet of, or inside a polling place, you may not use a wireless communication device or any electronic means of recording images or video. This includes mobile phones, tablets, etc. [Sec. 61.014]
|Note: Some cities have passed ordinances limiting political activities on public property beyond 100 feet of the polling place. RPT encourages volunteers to follow local ordinances until such time as those ordinances are declared unconstitutional by the courts.|
- You must have a Certificate of Appointment by a candidate, or in partisan elections, the candidate or a political party. [Sec. 33.006(a)]
- You must be a registered voter of the territory, but you do not have to live in the election precinct. [Sec. 33.031]
- You cannot be a candidate in that election or elected official. [Sec. 33.032, 33.032]. But a candidate’s spouse or children can be poll watchers.
- The primary duty of a watcher is to observe the conduct of the election at the location where the watcher has been appointed. A watcher may point out to an election judge or clerk any observed irregularity or violation of the Texas Election Code. However, if the clerk refers the watcher to the judge, the watcher may not discuss the matter further with the clerk unless the presiding judge invites the discussion. [Sec. 33.058(b)]
- A poll watcher MUST wear a form of identification prescribed by the Secretary of State and provided by the presiding judge or other election officer. [Sec. 33.051(f)]
- Poll Watchers may not:
- Talk with an election officer regarding the election except to call attention to an irregularity or violation. [Sec. 33.058(a)(1)]
- Converse with a voter. [Sec. 33.058(a)(2)]
- Converse with other watchers. [Sec. 33.058]
- Communicate in any manner with a voter regarding the election. [Sec. 33.058(a)(3)]
- Leave during voting hours on election day without the presiding judge’s permission unless the watcher has completed 5 consecutive hours of service at the polling place. If the watcher leaves without permission and prior to completing the 5 hours of service, the presiding judge may refuse to readmit the watcher.
- Poll Watchers must be allowed to:
- Witness the installation of voting system equipment at the polling place. [Sec.33.059]
- Observe the securing of voting system equipment before the election. [Sec. 33.059]
- A poll watcher may leave the polling place temporarily in order to use a cell phone or other wireless communication device. If the poll watcher promptly returns, he or she is considered to have served continuously as that term is used for calculating his or her continuous 5 hours, which allows the watcher to come and go. [Sec. 62.011]
- Sit or stand conveniently near the election officials to observe the activities of the election. [Sec. 33.056(a)]
- Make written notes while on duty. However, if the watcher is permitted to leave the polling place while the polls are open, the watcher may be required to leave his or her written notes with another person selected by the watcher who is on duty at the polling place. [Sec. 33.056(d)]
- Observe assistance given to voters by election officials and inspect the ballot before it is deposited in the ballot box to determine if it was prepared in accordance with the voter’s wishes. [Sec. 33.057(a)].
- It is not illegal to knock on a door with a “No Solicitation” sign. As a campaign worker, you are not soliciting since most city ordinances define solicitation as an attempt to sell products or services. Also, your political activities are free speech. Nevertheless, if challenged or threatened, just apologize and move on.
- The same is true for subdivisions with “no solicitation” rules.
- Stay on public property or designated walking areas.
- Do not put unstamped flyers in any mailbox. Title 18, Sec. 1725 states that any person who knowingly deposits “mail-able matter” without postage in an established letter box shall be subject to a fine.
Time Off to Vote
Assuming that an employee has not already voted in early voting, the employee is entitled to take paid time off for voting on election days, unless the employee has at least two consecutive hours to vote outside of the voter’s working hours.
- An employer must give employees time away from work to vote if the employee does not have otherwise sufficient free time while the polls are open. [Sec. 276.004]
- An employer must allow the employee to take the time off without threats, intimidation or any other penalty. [Sec. 276.001]
- An employer cannot reduce or threaten to reduce an employee’s wages or other benefits for voting for or against a particular candidate or refusing to disclose how they voted. [Sec. 276.001]