The midterm elections will be take place on Nov 6. It is important that students begin practicing their civic duty by voting in these midterm elections. A lot is at stake and every vote matters. Before you can vote, you need to be registered to vote. You can find information on how to register to vote or to check if you are already registered at https://www.votetexas.gov/register-to-vote/. The last day to register to vote for the midterm elections is Oct 9.
At this point, we’ve all heard about the Senate race between Beto O’Rourke and incumbent Ted Cruz, but this is not the only position being voted on. We’ll save our Senate endorsements for a later date, but we still want to demonstrate some of the lesser-known ballot positions being voted on are relevant to you as students.
In November, voters are tasked with choosing a new State Comptroller, Public Land Commissioner, Agricultural Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner. Some of these titles are self-explanatory, but others such as the comptroller and railroad commissioner are more obscure.
Let’s dive into what each of these titles entails.
The Texas State Comptroller serves in an obscure position, but one with far-reaching consequences. The comptroller is responsible for collecting over 60 different forms of taxes and fees ranging from sales taxes to fees on fuel, hotels and tobacco. Additionally, the Comptroller oversees the 529 college savings plans, which are tax-deductible savings accounts adults and students can put money into. The comptroller also balances the books for Texas’ $200 million plus budget. The current State Comptroller is republican Glenn Heger who was elected to the position in 2015. He is being challenged by Democratic entrepreneur, Joi Chevalier.
As the name implies, the Public Land Commissioner oversees all state owned land. The person in this role is responsible for making money for the states Permanent School Fund through the leasing and sale of public land. The school fund currently sits at $41.4 billion and contributes more money to public schools than the state lottery. The school fund is invested and regularly sees returns of 10% annually. According to a report by the office of the land commissioner, the fund distributed $1.06 billion to school districts in the 2017 fiscal year. Additionally, the school fund was used as collateral in $72.85 billion in school district bond offerings resulting in savings for 843 public school districts. Revenue from the leasing and selling of land also goes to funding veterans programs and wildlife initiatives. The current Public Land Commissioner is republican George P. Bush, he is being challenged by Democratic lawyer Miguel Suazo.
The Agriculture Commissioner deals in regulations and policies for the states $106 billion agriculture sector, but additionally plays a role in advocating for healthy living and economic development in rural areas. The commissioner presides over an annual budget of $592.3 million. The quality of organic products, administration of the National School Lunch and Breakfast program, which provides healthy meals to public school students with federal dollars and the allocation of funds to non-profit organizations, which service homebound disabled and elderly citizens, are all handled by the agricultural commissioner. The current Agriculture Commissioner, republican Sid Miller, is being challenged by Democrat and former Air Force Colonel Kim Olsen.
The Railroad Commissioner’s title is misleading. Since 2005, all railroad related matters were transferred to the State Department of Transportation. The Office of Railroad Commissioner is in charge of all state-wide oil regulations ranging from output levels, to pipeline safety regulations. Additionally, they handle disputes between oil and gas drillers. The state of Texas has over 260,000 miles of oil pipelines, their regulatory decisions impact small businesses, citizens located near drilling sites and many many more. The current Railroad Commissioner is Republican Christi Craddick is going up against Democrat Carla Morton, a neuropsychologist who has served on the state board of education.
As we have demonstrated, these state positions, hold vast sway and power over the lives of every day Texans. Who holds these positions matters.
These profiles are by no means exhaustive instead, we urge you to do further research on each candidate and their prospective position. Most importantly, we urge you to vote in November.