AUSTIN, TX -- Eleven proposed constitutional amendments go before Texas voters in tomorrow's election.
The proposals passed both chambers of the Legislature with a two-thirds vote and must win voter approval to be added to the state constitution.
These amendments address various issues including state funding for veterans hospitals in Texas, establishing additional tier-one public universities, and---a controversial topic in Grayson County--property appraisal issues.
NOVEMBER 3, 2009 - CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ELECTION
PROPOSED AMENDEMENTS TO TEXAS CONSTITUTION
Amendment 1: Buffers for Military Facilities
Authorizes cities and counties to issue bonds and use tax revenue to acquire buffer areas or open spaces next to a military facility to protect them from encroaching development.
Supporters say military installations must be protected from development that could restrict training and possibly cause the military installation to close, negatively impacting the economy and security of many communities.
Opponents say permitting governmental entities to issue bonds to protect military bases may increase local communities' property taxes.
Amendment 2: Property Tax Appraisals for Resident Homesteads
Authorizes the legislature to provide for the ad valorem taxation of a resident homestead solely on the bases of the property's value as a resident homestead, eliminating the consideration of highest and best use of the property.
Supporters say the proposed amendment protects residence homesteads from large appraisal increases resulting from highest and best use consideration, which is already provided to agriculture and open spaces. It aids neighborhoods subject to surrounding commercial development from driving up property values of resident homesteads.
Opponents say allowing the resident homestead to be valued only on its essential use instead of the highest and best use could reduce the aggregate value of taxable property, therefore reducing local government's tax revenue. Also, it could reduce some school districts' per-student taxable property value, prompting the state to give those districts more funding under the Foundation School Programs' equalization formulas, which are already tight.
Amendment 3 : Uniform Property Appraisal Standards
Provides for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for property tax purposes.
Supporters say currently the State does not have direct oversight of local appraisal districts and cannot require local appraisal districts to follow State law or apply a standard appraisal method.
No arguments for opposition emerged during the Legislative Session.
Amendment 4: Establishing More Tier One Public Universities
Creates the National Research University Fund to help Texas' emerging research universities achieve national prominence as major research universities.
Supporters say Texas is home to only two top tier universities, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M, which have more applicants than they can admit causing Texas to lose graduates to schools in other states. The amendment would provide a source of guaranteed funding for emerging research universities to gain tier-one status.
Opponents say the state should focus its limited resources on a few public universities who are already near reaching tier-one status.
Amendment 5: Consolidating Adjoining Appraisal Districts
Allows adjoining appraisal districts to choose to consolidate their appraisal review boards.
Supporters say permitting appraisal review boards to consolidate would benefit rural counties that have difficulty finding review board participants.
Opponents believe consolidation efforts should extend to both appraisal and review systems to better benefit rural counties.
Amendment 6: Helping Veterans Obtain Land and Mortgages
· Authorizes the Veterans' Land Board to issue general obligation bonds to sell land to Texans veterans or provide them home or land mortgage loans.
· Supporters say the amendment provides bond authority needed to carry out programs that help veterans obtain homes and land, without frequently having to seek reauthorization from the legislature to issue bonds already approved.
· No apparent opposition.
Amendment 7: Dual Offices for State Military Members
Authorizes Texas State Guard or other state military members to hold civil offices and permits civil officers to participate in state military service.
Supporters say the amendment updates dual office holding exemptions to add Texas military services not in existence when prior laws where passed.
No apparent opposition.
Amendment 8: State Fund for Veterans Hospitals
Authorizes the state to contribute money, property and other resource for veterans hospitals in Texas.
Supporters say the amendment permits the state to contribute to a veterans hospital, which currently falls under jurisdiction of the federal U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Rio Grande Valley would benefit greatly from having a veterans hospital.
No apparent opposition.
Amendment 9: Public Access to Beaches
Establishes that the public has unrestricted right to access and use of a public beach, even when storm surges alter lines on properties considered private.
Supporters say the amendment strengthens and clarifies the Texas Open Beaches Act to protect the public's right to beaches. It would also reduce lawsuits challenging the state's ability to enforce easement as natural changes occur.
Opponents say the amendment gives the state excessive authority to restrict property owners rights to their property.
Amendment 10: Four Year Terms for Emergency Service District Boards
Limits the terms of state-elected emergency service districts' governing boards to four years, instead of two years.
Supporters say the amendment gives emergency services district commission enough time to gain expertise, provide continuity and allows them more time to focus on their roles instead of campaigns.
Opponents say the amendment weakens the commissioners accountability to the public by allowing them longer terms in office.
Amendment 11: Eminent Domain Restrictions
Restricts the state's ability to take private property for public use unless for specific purposes and uses, and excludes eminent domain authority for the primary purpose of economic development or increased tax revenue.
Supporters say the amendment enhances state law, clarifies for the courts that rule on eminent domain and closes a loophole allowing entities to take well-maintained properties due to surrounding "blighted" properties.
Opponents say state law already address these issues, but courts need more time to examine the effects of eminent domain laws and resolve lingering issues before making permanent changes in the constitution.
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