Proposed Constitutional Amendments 6-10
Final in series giving readers an explanation of propositions in Nov. 8 General Election
Published Oct. 21, 2011 @ 6 a.m.
This is the final story in our series about the proposed Constitutional Amendments in the General Election, Nov. 8. Early Voting begins Oct. 24 and will continue through Nov. 4, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. first floor of the Garza County Courthouse.
Proposition 6: This proposition would amend the constitution to increase the amount of principal that is available for withdrawal from the permanent school fund each year and would also clarify certain references to that fund in the constitution. It would also provide authority to distribute to the available school fund annual revenue from school fund land or other properties up to $300 million per year.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: "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."
Supporters believe this 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. They also believe that increased distributions to the Available School Fund would provide support for public schools at a time when additional state funding for schools is needed.
Opponents believe the revenue should not be transferred to schools, but should instead be used to grow the Permanent School Fund to provide public school support in future years. Following this line of thinking, this would be the same as liquidating a permanent asset to satisfy a short-term need and defeat the purpose of the investment fund.
Proposition 7: This proposition would amend the constitution by adding El Paso County to the list of counties authorized to create conservation and reclamation districts to develop parks and recreational facilities financed by taxes. While this relates to an area of the state where you do not reside, the amendment could set a precedent that might affect other counties in the future.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: "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."
This proposed amendment would facilitate the creation and maintenance of a regional parks district in El Paso County through certain bonding and taxing authority currently available in 10 other counties. Currently El Paso's park system, used by both city and county residents is underfunded. The amendment would not raise taxes but would provide an opportunity for county voters to decide whether such a district should be created.
Opponents believe the amendment would provide an opportunity for further taxing authority in El Paso County, a property-poor county. And, while improving the regional quality of life is commendable, it is irresponsible at this time.
Proposition 8: This proposition would amend the constitution by requiring the legislature to provide for taxation of open space land devoted to water stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: "The constitutional amendment 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."
Everyone agrees that water conservation is vital to protect our fresh water resources. According to the state water plan, "active conservation will acocunt for 23 percent of the state's future water supply." Supporters of this amendment believe the amendment would endorse voluntary water stewardship as a tool to advance water conservation.
Opponents are concerned that the amendment could provide a way to undermine the agricultural-use property valuation, or have other unintended consequences. They believe there are already several other tax breaks for Texas landowners and providing for another one is excessive.
Proposition 9: This proposition would amend the constitution to authorize the governor, on the written recommendation and advice of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, to grant a pardon, reprieve, or commutation of punishment to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision."
The Texas constitution currently authorizes the governor to pardon a person who has been convicted of a crime but not a person who has successfully completed a term of deferred adjudication community supervision, a procedure by which a person charged with certain crimes can avoid a conviction. Those who support this proposition believe the provision giving a person in this situation a pardon and the expunction of certain related criminal history record information would result in a more consistent policy on a pardons. If the proposition passes, the governor would still have discretion about whether to grant a pardon in this situation.
Opponents believe that the record of deferred adjudication accurately states that the probation was completed and charges were dismissed; therefore, a constitional amendment is unnecessary. The expunction of related crimnal history record information in these situations can also be achieved through another appropriate legal avenue.
Proposition 10: This proposition would amend the constitution by extending the length of the unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation of certain local elected officeholders if they announce candidacy or become candidates for another office from one year to one year and 30 days.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: "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.
Under the current "resign-to-run" provision an officeholder could file for a place on the general primary election ballat as late as January 2 of the primary election year. At this time the officeholder would have less than a year remaining in office and would not be affected by the provision requiring a resignation if more than one year is left on the current term. However, the filing deadline for certain offices has now changed from January 2 of the primary election year to the second Monday in December of the preceeding year.
By extending by 30 days the length of the unexpired term that requires automatic resignation, the proposed amendment would retain the intended purpose of the provision and would provided for the continued service of local officials by allowing them to remain in their current post until their current term expires if they have less than one year and 30 days left in the term.
While there very little opposition to this proposition has been expressed, some do believe candidates should not hold elected district or county positions while running for other offices.
Resources for this article include The Voters Guide provided by the Texas League of Women Voters; the web site votexas.org and the Voters' Guide provided by Senator Robert Duncan, District 28.