Tuesday, November 6, is Election Day. The voters in our country will not only be choosing a President and countless other representatives but there are also many propositions and initiatives, some of which affect the environment, on ballots across the United States. Most, if not all, candidates have clear views on the environment and the votes they cast on the job are indicative of those views. How you vote on the various propositions can have a profound impact on the environment.
Here in Austin there are several propositions on the city ballot. Three deal specifically with environmental issues and one has a definite impact on the environment. These propositions are as follows:
- Prop 1: a yes vote would move the Austin General Election from May to November. While this is not a straightforward environmental issue, it would definitely help save energy and resources by consolidating the two dates.
- Prop 9: a yes vote would allow the city to amend its charter to permit the city council to lease parkland to a school district for ‘park’ type purposes. This would help the effort to preserve park lands in Austin and bring in much needed revenue to do just that.
- Prop 13: a yes vote would authorize the city to issue $30 million in bonds and notes for open space and watershed protection.
- Prop 14: a yes vote would allow the city to issue almost $78 million in bonds and notes for parks and recreation improvement.
There is a wonderful website, Grinning Planet, that lists candidate, issue and legislative information (and scorecards) for each state in the country. For each state, there is information from the state’s League of Conservation Voters (endorsements for legislative candidates, legislature scorecard and general information regarding environmental issues in the state), National League of Conservation Voters (environmental scorecard for Congress, endorsements for selected national races), Food Policy Action (information on national bills such as food safety, school lunches,the Farm Bill) and the Sierra Club. The Texas page also has links to local chapters of national environmental organizations, Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Project Vote Smart. There is also a website, About Politics, that lists voting records by state for elected officials. You are able to look up information on a wide variety of issues, including the environment.
There are many candidates for state offices on our ballot in addition to the higher profile national races. Because the Texas legislature only meets for a few weeks every two years, it is imperative that environmentally concerned Texans vote for the candidates that will best serve their interests. The budget passed during the last legislative session in 2011 was rated one of the worst ever passed in the state in regards to environmental issues. The budget of the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) was cut by 30%; the Parks and Wildlife budget was decreased by 28%; the Texas Emission Reduction Plan lost half of its funding. The one bright spot was that they did pass the nation’s first mandatory hydraulic fracking disclosure bill. The next legislative session begins in January 2013 so the candidates you vote for on Tuesday will be making extremely important decisions regarding our environment when the new legislature convenes.
Nationally, in addition to the ‘Washington’ races, there is widespread interest in an issue that will appear on the ballot in California. Proposition 37 would require the labeling of foods containing any genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. The food industry and Monsanto have spent a tremendous amount of money to try and defeat this initiative. Their premise is that it would greatly increase their costs. However, there are currently sixty-one countries in the world that require food labels to list GMO ingredients and all state that this requirement has not led to any increased costs to manufacturers. Keep any eye on this one…it is likely coming to other states soon if there is no national legislation introduced.
Well informed voters are well equipped to make intelligent decisions in the voting booth. It is up to you to do your homework and make the best choices possible.