For $850 million, what’s November 6’s Proposition 8 about’

AUSTIN ‘ Know what Proposition 8 is about’ Didn’t think so. Neither do most Texans. Public awareness of the constitutional amendments up for voter approval Nov. 6 was not high even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Proposition 8 would authorize an $850 million bond issue that would provide funds to 11 state agencies. More than a third of that money would go to provide maintenance and security improvements for the huge Texas prison system. Though all 110 of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s facilities would benefit from the bond money if voters approve, most of the work would be done at the system’s 26 oldest prisons. Of those, 13 units have been around 60 years or more. Portions of the Walls Unit in Huntsville, the state’s oldest lockup, have been in use for 153 years. “I think every homeowner can identify with this maintenance,” TDCJ executive director Gary Johnson said in a statement released by the prison system. “It is just like at home when a 20-year-old roof starts leaking, you either repair it or replace it’or you will have more damage than just the roof.” Though $300 million is a lot of money, TDCJ says the cost of replacing the entire system, the nation’s largest, would cost some $7.5 billion. The biggest project on the prison system’s “to do” list if Proposition 8 passes is to spend $8 million on the Montford Psychiatric and Regional Medical Facility at Lubbock. The facility, which handles a caseload from 27 other West Texas and Panhandle prison units, would be upgraded to handle around the clock minor emergency cases. In addition, bed capacity would be increased and surgical facilities would be expanded. If the amendment authorizing the bond sale passes, TDCJ will spend the money over a six-year period. More on Padre Construction began Sept. 27 to restore the collapsed portion of the causeway connecting South Padre Island to the mainland. Texas Department of Transportation engineers estimate the project will be completed by Dec. 23. Eight people died when vehicles plunged into the Laguna Madre after a barge struck the bridge on Sept. 15. Opening day In the 1950s and even in the 1960s, some Texas school districts used to give students a day off if the opening day of deer season occurred during the week. That doesn’t happen any longer, but the day before deer season opens over much of Texas on Nov. 3, fewer folks are likely to be at work. If you don’t want to keep the venison you harvest, don’t forget Hunters for the Hungry. The non-profit organization collects deer meat each season and sees that it goes to a family that can use it. Last season, Texas hunters donated 72,000 pounds to the cause. But they killed 450,000 deer, so the amount going to feed the hungry was not nearly as high as it could be. All those wanting to participate in the program need to do is take their deer to a participating processor and pay $20. That is considerably below what it would cost to have the deer prepared if you wanted to keep the meat. For more information on the program, check the Texas Association of Community Action Agencies website at or called Hunters for the Hungry at 800-992-9767.

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