What's next for water bank, HD 50 race, voter ID analysis


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and Chief Photojournalist SCOTT GUEST


Posted on November 6, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 6 at 7:32 PM

AUSTIN -- For Texas voters one issue floated above the rest in Tuesday's constitutional election. 
Passing with 73 percent of the vote, Texans gave the go-ahead on Proposition 6, shifting $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to kickstart a water infrastructure bank charged with helping finance new water projects across the state. 
"It is immeasurable in the impact it's going to have," said newly appointed chairman of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) Carlos Rubinstein. 
The next step for the board will be finalizing a set of uniform standards for how projects are prioritized, which is due Dec. 1. Then each of the 16 regional water planning groups will begin prioritizing their own projects, with a deadline set for September of 2014.
"They have to look at decade of need, cost-effectiveness, feasibility, sustainability, viability of the project," explained Rubinstein.
At the same time TWDB will begin the process to develop a rule dictating how funds are used and projects are prioritized. The due date for that is March of 2015, but Rubinstein says the board hopes to have the rule in place by December of 2014. That would allow money to begin to flow to the first projects as early as 2015.
"I expect that the universal projects that will come would range from conservation. From lining of canals, from things that we could do to move water more efficiently, to actually producing new water," said Rubinstein. "Which could be desal, brackish water desal, seawater desal, new pipelines and possibly new reservoirs."
"We need to keep in mind that some of those projects can be put in place rather quickly," added Rubinstein. "Some of them, because we're looking again at a 50-year horizon and regulatory burdens have to be overcome, will come a little later."
In parts of North Austin and Northeast Travis County, the race to replace retired state Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) in House District 50 is headed to a runoff. Republican Mike VanDeWalle led with 39 percent of the vote. Democrats accounted for 61 percent, more than half of which went to Celia Israel.
"I have an array of policy experience, whether it's mental health, public school advocacy, land use. And transportation is kind of  what I've been doing here lately," Israel told KVUE as early voting began in October. "So I wear many hats in the community." 
"I'd like to see government limit itself in intrusion into our life and freedoms, and I'd like to see government limit itself in taxation,"  VanDeWalle told KVUE the same day.
The two will face off in a runoff election to be set by Governor Rick Perry and would likely happen in January.   
Finally election administrators will begin unpacking data collected during the first election requiring voters to present photo identification. The controversial voter ID law was ruled discriminatory by federal judges last year, but was allowed to go into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act under which it was stalled.
Many voters with minor discrepancies between the name on their photo ID and the name on the voter registration database initialed an affidavit in order to vote. Of the nearly 50,000 who voted on Election Day in Travis County, 156 filled out a provisional ballot because of issues at the polls. Of those, just 40 -- or about .08 percent -- filled out a provisional ballot because of an ID issue. 
Provisional voters have until Nov. 12 to resolve any problems and "cure" their ballot. A total of 398 provisional ballots were cast statewide during early voting, but the initial figure does not indicate how many were related to identification.
The number of provisional ballots also does not take into account the number of voters who stayed at home because of a lack of ID. Overall turnout statewide saw a relative increase over the last constitutional election in 2011, but topped out at just over eight percent. Travis County also saw an increase, with a final turnout of 13.75 percent.