Texas Constitutional Amendments General Election Nov 5 2013

24 Oct

Texas Constitutional Amendments General Election Tuesday November 5, 2013.

http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/2013novballotlang.shtml Ballot propositions on Texas Secretary of State website. Early voting locations on each day from Monday October 21 through Friday November 1, 2013 in Lubbock County are found here http://www.votelubbock.org/election-information/early-voting-information/ To find your polling place on election day go here http://www.votelubbock.org/election-information/find-my-polling-place/#Search Remember that this year voters are required to show a photo identification so bring your drivers license or other photo ID with you to either the early voting location or to the election day polling place. Your voter identification card itself does not contain a photo so bring an additional item. League of Women Voters of Lubbock supplies a printed Voters Guide you can pick up at public libraries and United Supermarkets grocery stores but it’s online and down-loadable here http://lwvlubbock.org/VoterGuide.html in addition to each ballot title it has an allegedly neutral explanation, arguments for, and arguments against. They are partially helpful but don’t tell very much of the real story.

I have been asked my opinion on these nine amendments. For whatever or however little that may be worth, everyone has or could have an opinion, here it is:

Amendment Proposition # 2 is a housekeeping measure, cleaning out from the constitution references to governmental entities that no longer exist and haven’t for many years. I will vote YES.

Amendment Proposition # 8 would repeal an existing constitutional provision that singled out Hidalgo County [Lower Rio Grande Valley largest cities McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr and Mission, Edinburg is county seat] and created a hospital district financing scheme for Hidalgo County. There is in existence a legislative program for the financing of hospital districts in all counties in Texas and that program would apply to Hidalgo County but for the existing constitutional provision that singles out Hidalgo County [legislature should never have adopted this single county scheme]. I will vote YES.

Amendment Propositions # 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9.  I will vote NO.

# 1 is another authorization for an additional homestead property tax exemption for surviving spouses of military personnel who are killed in action. There is no general state property tax so this is another state legislature proposal to force reductions in the local government [primarily counties, cities and school districts] property tax base. Further, it selects as the group a very small but appealing group, surviving spouses of military personnel killed in action. There are many ways in which the state legislature could assist such worthy people, and it is free to do so. Putting a twenty-five year old widow’s property on local property tax exemption rolls, this year and for the next fifty years, is not a good idea. Frankly, it’s a bad idea but there seem to be a lot of those floating around the legislature many emanating from within the legislature. I am a veteran with more than twenty years of service and have facilitated the offering of benefits to veterans and their surviving spouses and other family members. There is much to recommend these patterns of activity and benefit programs that are universal and evenly and fairly applied to all who qualify. The legislature’s carve-out here is not helpful and looks more like a publicity gimmick for legislators who want to appear to support military personnel families in tragic circumstances.

# 4 is a similar additional homestead property tax exemption for disabled veterans and for their surviving spouses on properties donated to them by charity. My comments above apply. A very small but appealing group is selected. There are so many obvious ways in which the matter of a disabled veteran owning a donated home, but unable to pay his/her property tax, could be addressed and relief applied in the local community and more appropriately so, than by automatically reducing the local government property tax rolls.

# 3 This is all about passing the buck from the state legislature to local governments relative to how long an out-of-state owner of aircraft parts can locate those parts in Texas without incurring a property tax liability. First, the state law on property taxation ought to apply evenly to all owners of property, and there should not be a carve-out or special rule for owners of aircraft parts. Second, the state should not set up a negotiation arena for local government officials to be cajoled by large out-of-state companies. This legislative proposition is very bad and one wonders which aircraft company or companies paid how much to legislators to get this proposition on the ballot.

# 5 Mortgage lenders [banks and others] asked the legislature for this proposition in order to create a new market for selling the “reverse mortgage” package. The proposition approves the technique for purchase of home transactions rather than as currently for existing owned homes where there is an equity in the already owned home. The purchaser of a home puts up a down payment sufficiently large enough that the lender is willing to grant a reverse mortgage on the purchased home and the “borrower” never has to make a monthly mortgage payment but his “equity” [initial down payment] erodes over time and when gone, the lender invites him to make another large down payment or if not, forecloses and kicks him/her out of the home. This is an obvious scam that the legislature should never have accepted.

# 7 An attempt to reduce the number of special election situations to elect someone to fill an unexpired term of office, and it allows the council or mayor [depending on the home rule charter] to appoint someone to the vacant office. I believe in voters determining who sits on city councils and will tolerate the modest cost of special elections as a price paid for democracy.

# 9 The State Commission is appropriately empowered now and it should not be empowered to make private non-public reprimands and admonitions, but rather should make real sanctions up or down and in public. Allowing a state agency to make private “punitive” decisions is inviting corruption. Find the high road and stay on it.

# 6 This water proposition is the most substantive on the entire ballot. Quite reasonable minds could conclude differently on this issue, but those citizens who only read the ballot title will never identify the real issue. Water is critical for Texans and water resources are at best finite and at worst dwindling. Just as there have been financed water projects in the past there will be financed water projects in the future. They will deal with surface waters, underground waters, desalinization of salt water, and other topics. The real issue is whether the state agency Texas Water Development Board will have ultimate control over the financing of future projects or whether, as now, regional water districts and other water authorities [e.g., Colorado River Authority] will have an empowered place at the table in determining the financing of projects. In Texas history I have seen state agencies influenced by governors and other state officials make more mistakes on this type of issue, than what I’ve seen by water districts and other water authorities that have had to please a number of counties, many cities, and a host of regional political players before financing their projects. I think those regional entities have done a pretty fair job of managing water projects and I am unwilling to take power away from them and center that power in an Austin state agency. Ignore the seed money appropriation from the Rainy Day Fund. It’s an enticement to do something. If and when there is a good water project that both the state agency Texas Water Development Board and the pertinent regional water district(s) or water authorities agree upon, the legislature will appropriate what’s needed either from the Rainy Day Fund or general revenues to pay its fair share of the burden. The mix, if there should then be a mix, of general obligation bonds and revenue bonds will be determined, again, by both the state agency and the regional water district(s) and water authorities.

David Cummins

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