Debra Medina from We Texans has released a voter's guide for you to look over to read about all od the proposed amendments and make a knowledgable vote tomorrow!! GET OUT THERE AND VOTE!
With all the focus on the November 2012 Presidential election, many will miss the fact that there is also an election just a few weeks away. On November 8 of this year, Texas voters will decide on ten amendments to the Texas Constitution. View a sample ballot here The Texas Constitution is a large and complex document because it is rare that constitutional amendments fail at the ballot box.
With this in mind it is important to point out that these amendments are often the means of saddling Texans with debt. Texas taxpayers already find ourselves facing cuts to the funding of education and other constitutionally mandated state services and shoulder the burden for more than $35 billion of state debt. Yet elected officials still don’t seem to get the idea that citizens are tired of the runaway spending. We should not be increasing our debt!
Consequently, We Texans urges voters to “just say no.” Yes, that’s right, since nine of the ten propositions call for shifting of or increases in government spending or tax burden, we are recommending that you vote “against” all but one of the propositions on the ballot next month. Proposition 10 is the only exception for which we can support a “for” vote.
Amendment 1: Provides a property tax homestead exemption for the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran. Read the legislation here (SJR14)
While the property tax is a fundamentally flawed means of funding local government that we are working to completely eliminate, it is the method that is used in Texas today. Though well intended, this proposition adds yet another exemption to the long list of property tax-outs and distorts justice by shifting the cost of local government to the shoulders of others in the community.
Amendment 2: Provides for the issuance of an additional $6 billion in debt in the form of general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board. Read the legislation here (SJR4)
This proposal would create a revolving line of credit to the Texas Water Development Board. This line of credit would be secured by the Texas taxpayer. Government debt should be taken very seriously and approved on an as needed basis by the voters at the time of the need. To establish a revolving line of debt for an appointed state board and saddle Texans in perpetuity with that debt is unjust.
Amendment 3: Provides for the issuance of general obligation bonds to finance educational loans to students. Read the legislation here (SJR 50)
This proposal creates another evergreen revolving line of credit authorizing the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to issue additional student loans as long as the aggregate amount does not exceed the amounts previously authorized by voters (in other words, the grand total of all bonds approved for this purpose since voters began authorizing them in 1965.) Currently the board is prohibited from issuing more than $125 million in bonds per year and sits on approximately $275 million of unissued debt. This proposal would increase their lending authority from the remaining $275 million to $1.86 billion with responsibility for unpaid student loan obligations falling on the Texas taxpayer. Finally, this proposition would provide an increase in lending authority from $125 million per year to $350 million per year.
Amendment 4: Authorizes counties to use property taxes to fund the issuance of bonds or notes to develop blighted areas. Read the legislation here (SJR 63)
Under current law, cities are authorized to use property tax revenue to secure loans to fund the development of blighted areas. This proposal would extend that authority to counties. This proposition continuing to incentivize local governments with the lure of increased property tax revenue is a recipe for further eminent domain abuse.
Amendment 5: Authorizes cities and counties to enter into contracts that are longer than one year without having to create a tax or (sinking) fund to pay for those future obligations. Read the legislation here (SJR 26)
Currently, cities and counties may not create debt unless a tax is levied that is sufficient to pay the principle and interest on the debt. Cities and counties frequently enter into “interlocal contracts” whose term is less than one year because the costs associated with those agreements are funded from the current budget. To enter into a contract that extends beyond the current year would have the effect of creating a debt that will carry to future tax years. Debt of that type should require voter approval on a case by case basis and not be permitted unilaterally through a constitutional amendment.
Amendment 6: Allows the transfer of funds from the Permanent School Fund to the Available School Fund to provide additional funding for public education. Read the legislation here (HJR 109)
The Permanent School Fund was established for the support of public schools in this state. The Texas Constitution limits the amount of money that may be transferred from the Permanent School Fund to the Available School Fund each year to 6% of the average market value of the Permanent Fund. One virtually needs a degree in finance to understand the complex language of this proposal but it would change the manner of calculating the market value of the Permanent School Fund. This proposition would make a larger amount of money available for transfer to the Available School Fund consequently reducing the amount available for investment growth in the Permanent School Fund.
Amendment 7: Authorizes a conservation and reclamation district in El Paso County to issue bonds for parks and recreational facilities. Read the legislation here (SJR 28)
The proposal would create yet another government entity with the power to levy a property tax. Cities and counties already have the ability to fund parks and recreational facilities and to incur debt with the approval of local citizens. Creating special purpose districts such as this one further complicates local government and hampers the ability of citizens to understand their associated tax burdens.
Amendment 8: Creates another exemption with regard to appraised value of property for property tax purposes. Read the legislation here (SJR 16)
The proposal would ultimately require the Parks and Wildlife Department to set standards for determining whether land qualified for appraisal based on water stewardship. This amendment only serves to further complicate the property appraisal and exemptions process currently in place in Texas. The proposal thwarts justice and shifts the burden of the cost of local government to the shoulders of others in the community.
Amendment 9: Allows the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication. Read the legislation here (SJR 9)
The Texas Constitution authorizes the governor to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons following a criminal conviction but does not currently extend that authority to deferred adjudications. The original intent of deferred adjudication was to help the offender avoid having a criminal record. However, orders of nondisclosure are frequently ineffective in preventing the release of arrest and criminal history information in these cases. Consequently, employers and state agencies often treat the deferred adjudication as a conviction for employment and licensing purposes.
Proponents of this amendment rightly recognize that there is an injustice in law – convicted criminals can have their records expunged but those who have not been convicted of any crime can not. But there seems to be little indication that this amendment would solve the problem – it is unclear whether a pardon, even if one could be obtained, would expunge the criminal record. There is clearly a failing in statutory law and remedy should be sought there.
Amendment 10: Changes the length of the unexpired term that causes an automatic resignation of certain elected officials if they become candidates for another office. Read the legislation here (SJR 37)
The “resign-to-run” provision was added to the Texas Constitution in 1958 and was designed to insure officeholders gave their undivided attention to the duties of their office rather than campaigning while in the middle of their term. The provision created an automatic resignation for elected officials who began their campaign for a new office with more than one year remaining in their current term.
Terms for these officials end December 31. Previously, with filing deadlines in January, officials could announce their candidacy for another office on Jan. 1 or 2 and continue to serve the remainder of their current term. In order to insure adequate time to send ballots to military and overseas voters, the filing deadline has been moved from Jan. 2 to the second Monday in December. This provision would extend the provision so that an automatic resignation was not triggered unless the candidate began their campaign more than one year and 30 days before the expiration of their current term.
The Constitution has been amended hundreds of times, and when voters are asked to tack on yet another law, most of the time we say ‘Yes.” This is a good year to just say “No.”