|AMENDMENT 1 (SJR 14, authored by Van de Putte (D))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for 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.”
Summary: Currently, the Texas Constitution allows for an exemption from property taxation on all or part of the market value of the homestead of a certified 100 percent or totally disabled veteran. This amendment would extend the exemption of a surviving spouse of this veteran if that spouse remains in the same homestead and does not remarry.
Recommendation: TEF supports this amendment. This would give further recognition of the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. (Why would you want to encourage someone not to remarry?) I am voting no! Don’t we have enough fatherless children? Van de Putte is just looking for a re-election talking point.
AMENDMENT 2 (SJR 4, authored by Hinojosa (D))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment 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.”
Summary: This amendment would allow the Texas Water Development Board to issue additional general obligation bonds on a continuous and revolving basis (know as “evergreen” authority), rather than on a one-time voter approved basis, in an amount not to exceed $6 billion at any time outstanding. The board serves as a financing entity, offering financing options for water development projects across the state.
Recommendation:TEF opposes this amendment. This amendment gives additional spending authority to a government bureaucracy. Voters should retain as much authority as possible with such large amounts of money.
AMENDMENT 3 (SJR 50, authored by West (D))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of general obligation bonds of the State of Texas to finance education loans to students.”
Summary: This amendment would give the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board “evergreen” authority to fund students with general obligation bonds as long it does not exceed what has previously been approved by voters. Texas voters have approved a cumulative amount total of $1.86 billion over the years. Most recently, in 2007, voters authorized $500 million of which $275.5 million remains.
Recommendation:TEF opposes this amendment. It takes the state spending authority out of the hands of the voter. Although Texans need to encourage students to attend college, the problem lies in the ever-increasing costs of higher education, not with the ability of students to acquire loans. National student loan debt presently exceeds national credit card debt.
AMENDMENT 4 (HJR 63, authored by Pickett (D))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment 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 note increases in ad valorem taxes imposed by the county on property in the area. The amendment does not provide authority for increasing ad valorem tax rates.”
Summary: This amendment would give counties the same authority that cities and towns already have in pledging increased property tax collections for projects in special reinvestment zones.
Recommendation: TEF opposes this amendment. Authorizing counties to implement tax increment financing to fund projects in reinvestment zones could create an incentive to inflate property values and appraisals in these areas. Redirecting future taxes for other than intended purposes will further stretch already overburdened local budgets.
AMENDMENT 5 (SJR 26, authored by West (D))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment 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.”
Summary: This amendment would allow the legislature to authorize cities or counties to enter into interlocal contracts with other local governments for longer than a year without backing up the expenditure with a debt-service tax or sinking fund. Currently, a contract between local governments that is longer than one year is considered a debt, requiring a tax and the creation of a sinking fund.
Recommendation: TEF opposes this amendment. This would make spending easier for local governments without fiscal accountability. Supporters say it will increase government efficiency by allowing for the consolidation of more programs, services and projects local governments. When has government ever been efficient?
AMENDMENT 6 (HJR 109, authored by Orr (R))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment 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.”
Summary:The Permanent School Fund (PSF) is a special fund managed and disbursed by the State Board of Education (SBOE) through the Available School Fund (ASF). This amendment would expand disbursement authority to the General Land Office (GLO) of funds up to $300 million per year.
Recommendation: TEF opposes this amendment. Many legislators have wanted to use the PSF to help make up shortfalls experienced by Texas in previous biennium budgets, but the constitution has prevented this effort. This amendment would allow this access through the GLO. Legislators were so sure of the passage of this amendment, that the extra $300 million was included in the next biennium budget.
AMENDMENT 7 (SJR 28, authored by Rodriquez(D))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment 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.”
Summary: This amendment adds El Paso County to a list of counties already listed in the constitution allowing the legislature to authorize the county to issue bonds and levy taxes in order to develop parks and recreational facilities on conservation and reclamation district land, if first approved by area voters.
Recommendation: TEF opposes this amendment. This would create another opportunity to tax residents in a property poor county. Even though this must be approved by county voters, good or bad, most bond elections pass because voter turnout is so low.
AMENDMENT 8 (SJR 16, authored by Estes (R))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment providing for the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-space and devoted to water-stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.”
Summary: This amendment would give property owners, whose property is appraised as open-space land based on its productivity, an additional tax exemption by claiming water stewardship.
Recommendation: TEF opposes this amendment. This amendment was promoted by the radical environmental group Nature Conservancy. These environmentalists want to take away water rights from private property owners. Any landowner willing to take this new exemption will soon have the state dictating how their water is managed.
AMENDMENT 9 (SJR 9, authored by West (D))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision.”
Summary: This amendment would expand the governor’s authority to grant pardons upon recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles when a person successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication. The only criminal cases in Texas a judge cannot hand down a sentence of deferred adjudication are capital murder and driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases. So cases involving sexual abuse, child abuse, theft, and fraud, just to mention a few possibilities, would be covered under this amendment.The intent of the amendment is for the expunction of criminal records.
Recommendation:TEF opposes this amendment. Texans should be cautious about any policy that could result in new restrictions on public access to criminal history record information. Employers, schools, and the public should be able to access this information.
AMENDMENT 10 (SJR 37, authored by Van de Putte (D))
Ballot will read: “The constitutional amendment to 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.”
Summary: This amendment would add an additional 30 days to the existing requirement that an announcement by certain elected county & district officials of candidacy for another office constitutes an automatic resignation of the office if their unexpired term is one year. This amendment accommodates the new filing deadline passed by the 82nd Legislature to comply with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. MOVE Act was passed by Congress in 2009, addressing concerns that military and overseas voters did not have sufficient time to vote, and thus were effectively disenfranchised.