Texas Constitutional Amendment Election Nov. 8, 2011
Texas voters will be asked to approve 10 proposed amendments to the state constitution. Don't forget to bring your voter registration card AND a photo ID with you or else you will NOT be permitted to vote. The new voter photo ID law was passed in the last legislative session.
Here's a brief overview of the proposals (some of this was taken from the sites of the Texas Secretary of State and the Austin American-Statesman) When appropriate I give my opinion on a proposed amendment:
Proposition 1: Allowing surviving spouses of totally disabled veterans to receive a homestead tax exemption
Currently, military veterans who have been declared 100 percent disabled can receive a homestead exemption for tax purposes, but it does not transfer to their spouses when they die. The amendment would transfer the exemption to a surviving spouse.
This is the one proposal that I WILL vote for. The total number of 100 percent or totally disabled veterans is a very small fraction of the total population. In addition, the spouses of the deceased veteran may have had to give up their job to care for the veteran and may have lost their savings. I believe it is the right thing to do and in all honesty, it should have been part of the original exemption bill that was approved several years ago, but legislators once again "missed a beat."
Proposition 2: Renewing authority for Texas Water Development Board bonds
Under voter authorization granted in 2001, the Water Development Board is authorized to issue up to $2 billion in general obligation bonds to finance water and wastewater projects for public entities — including cities, districts and nonprofit water supply corporations — at a lower interest rate than they could receive without state backing. The amendment would increase bonding authority to $6 billion and allow the board to issue bonds as needed, without voter approval, as long as that limit is not exceeded.
I will vote against this special interest proposal for 2 reasons. First, it is more government regulation via a Water Development Board that we really don't need. Secondly, any type of bonds means additional property taxes for homeowners. Homeowners are paying enough in taxes. The San Antonio watchdog organization TURF also is against this proposition.
Proposition 3: Renewing state bond authority to finance low-interest student loans
The amendment would authorize the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to issue general obligation bonds to finance low-interest loans for college students. The College Access Loan program is open to students enrolled at least half time without regard to financial need, although they must have good credit or a co-signer with good credit. The amendment would give the coordinating board ongoing authority to issue bonds without further voter approval as long as bond issues do not exceed $350 million a year and the principal amount of outstanding bonds does not exceed $1.9 billion.
At first reading it sounds like a worthwhile proposal; however, I will be voting against this proposal. Once again, a government authorized entity is ruling for the people and it is pushing bond issues that will result in higher taxes for Texans who already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation.
Proposition 4: Allowing counties to participate in certain tax financing zones
Currently, incorporated cities and towns are allowed to finance development of an unproductive, underdeveloped or blighted area and to pledge increases in property tax revenue in the area to repay the bonds. The amendment would expand this right to counties.
This proposal looks to increase the power of city and county governments in manipulating taxpayer dollars to finance special interest issues. The watchdog group San Antonio's TURF also is against this proposition. I will vote no on it.
Proposition 5: Allowing city and county interlocal contracts without tax and sinking fund
Currently, the Constitution prohibits cities and counties from creating debt unless a tax is levied that is sufficient to pay the interest on the debt and the debt is paired with a sinking fund of at least 2 percent of the principal. A sinking fund is an amount set aside to cover future installment payments on a debt obligation. Proposition 5 would authorize cities and counties to enter interlocal agreements with other cities or counties without meeting those requirements.
This is another special interest issue and one that is bad for taxpayers and voters. Why would we want to increase the potential for more debt? I am voting no on this one.
Proposition 6: Distributing from Permanent School Fund to Available School Fund
Currently, public education in Texas is funded in part by a trust fund called the Permanent School Fund, which is managed by the State Board of Education and contains proceeds from state lands and mineral rights. Land managed by the School Land Board is excluded from the market value calculation of that fund. The amendment would change that, thus providing additional funding for the Available School Fund and, ultimately, for public education.
First of all, the State Board of Education (SBOE) should be dismantled. It is another government agency that has too much control over our lives and the educational programs in the state. In addition, it is a politically motivated agency that has no merit to developing REAL educational quality and purpose for our children. I will vote no on this proposal.
Proposition 7: Authorizing districts in El Paso County to issue bonds for parks and recreational facilities
The amendment would add El Paso County to the list of local governments allowed under the Constitution to form conservation and reclamation districts and to issue bonds and levy taxes to develop and finance parks and other recreational facilities.
This is an issue that should be voted on first by the voters in El Paso County before going before all Texas voters. After all, those taxpayers will be forced to pay more in property taxes for any proposed bond packages and so should be the ones to determine whether the proposal should be considered by all state voters. I will vote no on this proposition.
Proposition 8: Appraising open-space land for water stewardship
Currently, the Constitution allows the Legislature to tax open-space land according to its productive capacity, and reduced taxes are available for landowners who farm, ranch, maintain wildlife or produce timber. The amendment would add water stewardship to the list.
Another special interest proposal. Why should water developers get a freebie on paying taxes? They stand to make the most from water development and should pay land taxes to do so. I will vote no on this proposal.
Proposition 9: Allowing pardon by the governor after successful deferred adjudication
Currently, the governor can grant a pardon to a person convicted of most crimes, as long as the State Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends it. But the governor is not authorized to pardon someone who receives deferred adjudication because there is no criminal conviction in those cases. The amendment would allow such pardons.
The governor should NOT be given any more power than the position currently has, including this proposal. I will vote against this proposition.
Proposition 10: Lengthening period before county officials must resign to run for another office
Currently, many county officials must resign from their public offices to run for another office if their unexpired terms exceed one year from the declaration of candidacy. State election law was changed this year to move the candidate filing period one month earlier. The amendment would maintain the status quo by extending the length of the unexpired term requiring automatic resignation from one year to one year and 30 days.
This is a terrible proposition! What we should be doing is to cut the length of the terms rather than extending them. If a person wishes to run for another office, then they should have the decency to leave the current post. In addition to taking time from office to run for another position, there may be a conflict of interest involved between the 2 jobs. I will vote no on this proposition.
In fact, we need to change the law that enables the Governor to run for President without stepping-down from the position first. Bush did it and now Perry is also doing it and it's not fair to the people of Texas.
In conclusion, historically most propositions on constitutional ballots are approved by voters (between 80 and 90 percent) . That has been a big mistake, but we seem not to learn from our history and experiences. By comparison, I generally vote for a maximum of 10 percent of all constitutional propositions because most of them are special interest driven and are NOT in the best interests of the Texas community.