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Lawsuit Aims to Stop Certification of Medical School Vote

Kelly Connelly for KUT News

Travis County voters passed Central Health Proposition 1 this week, which increases property taxes to help bring a medical school to Austin.

But a group of citizens is trying to stop the vote from being certified or canvassed.

A lawsuit filed by the Travis County Taxpayers Union (TCTU) says the ballot language of Prop 1 was misleading and made promises that the health care district is not legally able to fulfill.

“We want a federal judge to agree with us that the misleading and illegal ballot language contributed to the victory of Prop 1 at the polls. So the point being, if they had told the truth, we thing the voting outcome would have been different,” Don Zimmerman, TCTU Treasurer, says.

Keep Austin Healthy advocated for Prop 1. Committee member Tim Taylor told KUT News that the lawsuit is a frivolous publicity stunt.

The attorney representing Central Health didn’t go that far, but did say he didn’t believe the plaintiffs have stated any valid legal grounds for the relief that they are seeking.

Here's Jim Cousar, attorney for Central Health (Disclaimer: Cousar is a member of KUT's Advisory Board.):

“I think this is a lawsuit where one of the burdens that the plaintiffs would have to get the court to stop the canvassing is to show that somehow this ballot, this proposition was not in the public interest. Fifty-five percent of the voters in Austin have spoken. They went to the polls and voted to raise property taxes on themselves. They voted knowing that this will facilitate agreements with UT to fund a new medical school, with Seton to fund a new teaching hospital. I think the public interest is very much on the side of the 55 percent of the voters who supported this proposition and I hope the court recognizes that."

A federal district judge will hear the lawsuit next week (Nov. 14). A decision on whether an injunction will be granted is expected then or soon after.

Cousar says the lawsuit itself isn’t delaying the certification or canvassing of the vote. He says Central Health won’t even have the ballots back from the county until the day of the hearing. The canvassing meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 16.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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