Proposed constitutional amendments explained
A statewide election will be held Nov. 8 for Texans to vote on several amendments to the state constitution. State Rep. John Kuempel, who district currently represents most of the Gonzales Cannon’s readership, has provided the following summary of those amendments to better inform voters:
Amendment No. 1 (S.J.R. 14)
Authorizing legislature to provide an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran.
Supporters Say: By allowing a surviving spouse to transfer the surviving spouse’s exemption to a subsequent homestead, the proposed amendment would permit the surviving spouse to move to a different home, including a home closer to family, without losing the exemption.
Opponents Say. The state should not provide for new property tax exemptions at a time when essential services such as public education and health care are underfunded.
Amendment No. 2 (S.J.R. 4)
Providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $6 billion at any time outstanding.
Supporters Say: The increase in Texas’ population and the persistent threat of severe drought highlight the need to update infrastructure to meet current water needs and to anticipate and plan for future water needs. Without the additional bonding authority, critical water planning and infrastructure upgrades will be greatly impeded or halted altogether.
Opponents Say:. Funding for implementation of the state water plan is inadequate and should be considered where possible.
Amendment No. 3 (S.J.R. 50)
Providing for the issuance of general obligation bonds of the state to finance educational loans to students.
Supporters Say: Recent cuts in federal financial aid and the elimination of certain federal financial aid programs, together with expected reductions in available state grant programs, likely will increase the demand for student loans, and low-interest, fixed-rate loans.
Opponents Say: National student loan debt presently exceeds national credit card debt, and certain media sources have identified student loans as a potential catalyst for a widespread financial predicament similar to that relating to subprime mortgage loans.
Amendment No. 4 (H.J.R. 63)
Authorizing the legislature to permit a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes imposed by the county on property in the area.
Supporter Say: Counties should have the same ability as cities and towns to finance needed public improvements in areas that are deteriorating and designated as reinvestment zones. The proposed amendment would provide a mechanism for financing structural improvements in a defined area without a tax increase.
Opponents Say: Authorizing counties to implement tax increment financing to fund transportation or other projects in a reinvestment zone could create an incentive to appraise property in the zone at a higher value.
Amendment No. 5 (S.J.R. 26)
Authorizing the legislature to allow cities or counties to enter into interlocal contracts with other cities or counties without the imposition of a tax or the provision of a sinking fund.
Supporters Say: By allowing a local government to enter into a contract with a term of more than one year without having to impose a tax or create a sinking fund, the proposed amendment would increase government efficiency by allowing for the consolidation of more programs, services, and projects.
Opponents Say: No comments opposing the amendment were made during the house and senate committee hearings on the amendment or during discussion of the amendment in the house and senate chambers.
Amendment No. 6 (H.J.R. 109)
Clarifying references to the permanent school fund, allowing the General Land Office to distribute revenue from permanent school fund land or other properties to the available school fund to provide additional funding for public education, and providing for an increase in the market value of the permanent school fund for the purpose of allowing increased distributions from the available school fund.
Supporters Say: The proposed amendment is necessary to clarify the constitutionality of the General Land Office’s authority to distribute revenue derived from permanent school fund land and property directly to the available school fund for distribution in the next biennium to the state’s public schools.
Opponents Say: The permanent school fund is meant to provide interest revenue from investment of the fund’s permanent assets for distribution through the available school fund to the public schools in this state, and it would be unwise to spend funds that otherwise would be invested.
Amendment No. 7 (S.J.R. 28)
Authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.
Supporters Say: Currently, the City of El Paso’s park system, used by both city and El Paso County residents, is underfunded. The proposed amendment would facilitate the creation and maintenance of a regional parks district in the county through certain bonding and taxing authority currently available in 10 other counties.
Opponents Say: The proposed amendment would provide an opportunity for further taxing authority in El Paso County, a property-poor county. In this current economic climate, government leaders should be focused on sustaining the local economy and generating revenue rather than on creating additional debt.
Amendment No. 8 (S.J.R. 16)
Providing for the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-space land devoted to water-stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.
Supporters Say: Active conservation will account for 23 percent of the state’s future water supply, and the state water plan endorses voluntary water stewardship as a water conservation strategy. Promoting water stewardship is sound and sustainable water conservation policy. Farmers and ranchers would have a financial incentive to run fewer cattle on their land, helping to preserve the land’s habitat and native plant and animal species.
Opponents Say: The proposed amendment and its enabling legislation could provide a way to undermine the agricultural-use property valuation, or have other unintended consequences.
Amendment No. 9 (S.J.R. 9)
Authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision.
Supporters Say: The Texas Constitution currently authorizes the governor to pardon a person who has been convicted of a crime but not a person who has completed deferred adjudication community supervision. This allows a situation in which a person who is convicted of a violent crime may receive a pardon while a person who is charged with a nonviolent crime and is placed on and completes deferred adjudication community supervision is not allowed to seek a pardon.
Opponents Say: Providing the means by which a person who completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision may be pardoned would not efficiently achieve the goal of expunction of criminal history record information because the person still must proceed through the pardon process involving the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the governor, a process that historically has resulted in few pardons.
Amendment No. 10 (S.J.R. 37)
Change the length of the unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation of certain elected county or district officeholders if they become candidates for another office.
Supporters Say: Under the current resign-to-run provision in the Texas Constitution, an officeholder could file an application for a place on the general primary election ballot as late as January 2 of the primary election year, the current filing deadline, at which time the officeholder would have less than one year remaining in that office and would not be affected by the resign-to-run provision. Because Senate Bill 100 changes that filing deadline from January 2 to the second Monday in December of the preceding year, a conforming change to the constitutional resign-to-run provision is necessary to preserve the original intent of that provision.
Opponent Say: No comments opposing the amendment were made during the house and senate committee hearings or during discussion of the amendment in the house and senate chambers.