The Texas Constitution is a patchwork of amendments — 498 times since it was ratified in 1876 — and voters on Nov. 5 will be asked to add 10 more amendments to the state’s guiding document. The propositions under consideration will be on every ballot in Texas, even if no other elections are on the ballot.
Here is a look at the 10 propositions on the ballot:
“The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”
Municipal judges can be either elected or appointed, depending on where they serve. In both Bryan and College Station, municipal judges are appointed by the city council.
Under current law, a municipal judge elected in one community cannot be elected to serve also in other communities. This creates a hardship for small communities, particularly those in West Texas, who lack a qualified or interested candidate for election to the municipal court. If this proposition passes, a person could be elected municipal judge in multiple communities.
The proposition does not affect appointed municipal judges, who can serve in multiple jurisdiction.
The Eagle recommends a vote in favor of Proposition 1.
“The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.”
If approved by voters, the Texas Water Development Board would be authorized to issue an additional $200 million in general obligation funds — to be repaid out of the state’s general fund — to help economically disadvantaged areas of the state develop badly needed water and sewer projects.
Supporters say every Texan has the right to clean water and adequate sewage removal. Critics point out that Texas will pay more than $3.3 million in repayments and interests through 2021. And, critics say, the state should not be involved in local issues such as water and sewage projects.
It is clear, though, that poor areas of Texas need state help to provide clean water and sewage removal they cannot afford on their own. After all, we are all Texans and we are all in this together.
The Eagle recommends a vote in favor of Proposition 2.
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.”
If passed, this proposition would exempt 15% to 100% of property taxes — depending on the amount of property damage — for one year for people living in areas affected by a natural disaster, as declared by the governor. Affected municipalities would have to approve the exemptions.
Now, cities are authorized to re-evaluate property values in the wake of a natural disaster, a lengthy and expensive process that would delay considerably help for those affected by the disaster.
Hopefully, none of The Eagle’s readers will be affected by a natural disaster, but too many of our fellow Texans are devastated by floods or fires or other natural disasters and we must do what we can to help them in their time of loss.
The Eagle recommends a vote in favor of Proposition 3.
“The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”
For 26 years, the Texas Constitution has said a state income tax may not be imposed without electoral approval from the public. Plus, revenue from an income tax must be spent on education.
If this proposition is approved — and it shouldn’t be — both houses of the Legislature would have to approve by at least two-thirds of the House and Senate any income-tax measure put before the public.
No less a figure than the popular Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock lobbied for an income tax in place of some other taxes, but he finally threw in the towel when he met opposition at every turn.
Supporters of this amendment say Texas continues to prosper because it does not have an income tax. Earlier this year, a University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll found 71% of Texans oppose a personal income tax.
But the state’s tax system is archaic and out of touch with modern reality. One only has to look at the increasingly oppressive property tax system so despised by homeowners to know there must be a better way.
Voting down Proposition 4 would not impose an income tax. The same stiff requirements to enact an income tax that have been in place since 1993 will remain in force. But, if Texas and Texans ever decide in he future to overhaul our antiquated tax system and put in an income tax, we shouldn’t make it harder to do so.
The Eagle recommends a vote against Proposition 4.
Sporting Goods Tax
“The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality and history by acquiring, managing and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.”
Years ago, voters approved an additional tax on sporting goods items such as equipment and required licenses. The public was led to believe the money from the tax would be spent on state parks and historic sites, such as Washington-on-the Brazos and Fanthorp Inn state historic sites. Unfortunately, lawmakers found a way to used a good portion of those tax dollars to balance the budget.
If approved, the entire sports tax would have to be used to purchase and maintain existing state parks and historic sites — as we thought we decided some time ago.
By diverting some sporting tax funds to other areas of the budget, the Legislature has left our cherished state parks and historic sites without the needed funds for routine maintenance and other costs.
If passed, this proposition would force lawmakers to spend these funds as voters intended — and only as voters originally intended.
The Eagle recommends a vote in favor of Proposition 5.
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.”
A decade ago, voters approved creating a $3 billion fund to finance the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas in the desire to make Texas a center for cancer research and prevention programs. So successful has that been, that this proposition would add another $3 billion to the project.
Proposition 6 supporters note that thousands of jobs have been created and more than 170 top cancer researchers have been brought to Texas — including a 2018 Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine, James Allison, to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. All this research is bound to move us ever closer to eradicating the devastating scourge of cancer. Opponents point out there are other devastating diseases and say the state shouldn’t be involved in paying for such research.
But, of course, governments — and the tax dollars of the public — are critical to all kinds of research that benefit all of us.
The Eagle recommends approval of Proposition 6.
Available School Fund
“The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”
In the years after the Civil War, the state found itself owns millions of acres of land, primarily in West Texas. Construction of our Capitol building was funded through land exchanges and sales. With the advent of oil and gas and minerals, the state set aside money from leases of these lands for a Permanent University Fund and a Permanent School Fund. Currently, the School Fund distributes $300 million annual to the state’s Available School Fund, from which distributions are made to support public education. This proposition would double that amount to $600 million
In a complicated formula, increasing the amount of money in the Available School Fund would mean more money to local school districts and could — could — mean lower property taxes, although not significantly lower. Taking more money from the Permanent School Fund would mean less available for distribution to school districts directly or through the Available Fund.
We understand the arguments against this proposition, but any help for local taxpayers would be welcome. If passed, it is incumbent on local districts to use the increased funds wisely.
The Eagle recommends approval for Proposition 7.
“The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation and flood control projects.”
This proposition would create a Flood Infrastructure Fund with the transfer of $793 million from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.” The Flood Infrastructure Fund would be outside the general revenue budget — and thus couldn’t be touched by lawmakers — and would be administered by the six-member Texas Water Development Board, appointed by the governor, which would make loans or grants to municipalities to build flood control and drainage infrastructures.
Anything we can do to help avoid the damage we saw in recent years in the Houston area is a good thing.
The Eagle recommends approval for Proposition 8.
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.”
Last year, the state created a privately run precious metals depository, with state oversight. Some people purchase gold, silver, palladium, rhodium and platinum as an investment, which is taxed by local governments as property on the value of the precious metals on the date of purchase. This proposition would exempt precious metals from those ad valorem taxes. Many other states do not tax precious metal purchases and the amendment would enhance the chances the Texas depository could join COMEX, the leading marketplace for precious metal exchanges. Critics say other investments are taxed and so should precious metals.
Realistically, most Texans will not be affected by this proposition.
The Eagle recommends approval of Proposition 9.
Law Enforcement Animals
“The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”
Dogs — and sometimes other animals — are increasingly being employed by law enforcement agencies in their efforts to fight crime. We all know stories of their tremendous ability and valor. Under current Texas law, the transfer of state property — including such animals — generally is prohibited.
Proposition 10 would create a way to reunite law enforcement animals and their handlers — or other qualified person — when the animal “retires.”
These animals serve us so well. When they do get to step aside, their remaining years should be with the people they know best.
The Eagle recommends approval of Proposition 10.