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Election Coverage

Seven proposed state constitutional amendments — the pros and cons

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October 28, 2015 | 2,538 views | Post a comment

Seven amendments to the Texas Constitution are on the ballot Nov. 3 for Texas voters.

Proposition 1

“The constitutional amendment increasing the amount of the residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation for public school purposes from $15,000 to $25,000, providing for a reduction of the limitation on the total amount of ad valorem taxes that may be imposed for those purposes on the homestead of an elderly or disabled person to reflect the increased exemption amount, authorizing the legislature to prohibit a political subdivision that has adopted an optional residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation from reducing the amount of or repealing the exemption, and prohibiting the enactment of a law that imposes a transfer tax on a transaction that conveys fee simple title to real property.”

Pros: This provides much-needed tax relief, beginning in 2015. Even if the exemption increase does not reduce the property tax burden due to increased appraisals, it will slow the growth of taxes. The proposition would also prevent a transfer tax on real estate transactions.

Cons: Increases in local taxes and appraisals could nullify the tax cut. Increasing the exemption will cost the state $1.24 billion every two years to make up the loss for school districts. Detractors say that the state should cut consumption taxes and increase spending on education and infrastructure in order to stimulate the economy.

Proposition 2

“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 who died before the law authorizing a Prior residence homestead exemption for such a veteran took effect.”

Pros: This recognizes that the sacrifice made by a 100-percent or totally disabled veteran and the person’s surviving spouse is the same, regardless of the date on which the disabled veteran died. The fiscal effect of the amendment and the enabling legislation on taxing units would be minimal, while the benefit to the family of any individual disabled veteran who died before 2010 would be considerable.

Cons: Opponents believe this would decrease tax revenue available to school districts, municipalities, counties, and other taxing units to provide services and would impose a burden on the state to make up the revenue loss. Property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and their families disproportionately affect certain areas of the state, such as near military bases, and have a greater effect on the ability of taxing units in those areas to raise sufficient revenue to provide essential services as well as on the distribution of the tax burden in those areas.

Proposition 3

“The constitutional amendment repealing the requirement that state officers elected by voters statewide reside in the state capital.”

Pros: This would allow certain state officers elected by the voters statewide to maintain a residency at a location in this state other than Austin, and reduce the burden this requirement places on them and their families. The capital residency requirement was included in the 1876 Texas Constitution and has not been amended since.

Cons: This would repeal a residency requirement that has remained unchanged in the Texas Constitution since its adoption in 1876. This would allow state officers to be physically present at the state capital infrequently and to possibly neglect their duties of office.

Proposition 4

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles.”

Pros: This would allow professional sports team charitable foundations in this state to highlight the team’s philanthropic activities, bring awareness to community needs, encourage sports fans to contribute to worthy causes, and raise additional money for the foundation’s charitable purposes. Under current law, nonprofit organizations may annually conduct not more than two charitable raffles.

Cons: There was no opposing testimony on either floor or in any committee on this resolution. Gambling opponents, while not necessarily opposed to charitable raffles, are concerned that the passage of H.J.R. 73 will expand gambling in this state and encourage future expansions of gambling.

Proposition 5

“The constitutional amendment to authorize counties with a population of 7,500 or less to perform private road construction and maintenance.”

Pros: This would give rural counties and private landowners in affected counties more flexibility to update private roads that are poorly maintained. Private landowners still would have the flexibility to hire a private company instead of the county if they chose to do so.

Cons: Instead of increasing the maximum population threshold for counties allowed to perform private roadwork under Section 52f, Article III of the state constitution, the population limit should be eliminated. All counties should have the option to construct and maintain private roads in the county as long as private landowners agree and pay the county for the cost of the work.

Proposition 6

“The constitutional amendment recognizing the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife subject to laws that promote wildlife conservation.”

Pros: Supporters feel that animal rights groups and anti-hunting activists may try to impose stricter limits on hunting and fishing in this state, and supporters seek constitutional protection for those activities to preserve the opportunity to hunt and fish for future generations. Protecting hunting and fishing would also protect the economic benefit enjoyed by the state from revenue generated by those activities.

Cons: Opponents feel this is unnecessary because there is no threat to hunting and fishing in this state. Efforts to enact this may in fact spur groups opposed to hunting and fishing to begin activity in response. A constitutionally stated preference for the use of hunting and fishing to control and manage wildlife may force regulations to change in a way that would make it more difficult to achieve a balanced ecosystem.

Proposition 7

“The constitutional amendment dedicating certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for nontolled roads and the reduction of certain transportation-related debt.”

Pros: This would provide a consistent and reliable source of funding for transportation projects in the state. This state’s current transportation system is inefficient and in poor repair in many areas, which has a negative effect on the state’s economy. The state needs a predictable, dedicated revenue source that allows for future planning to address infrastructure demands. This would provide a source of funding so that existing projects can be completed and new projects can be planned up to 10 years in advance and started in areas that will lead to the greatest return on the state’s monetary investment.

Cons: This could lead to the state being required to make substantial cuts in essential state services, such as public education and health and human services, in the event of a downturn in the state’s economy. There are better alternatives for providing transportation funding that would not affect the state’s ability to respond to future budget crises.

Edited from information provided by Rep. John Kuempel’s office.

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