A Guide to the 2007 Constitutional Amendments
Part 1 of 2, Covering Propositions 1-8
Ask anyone from outside of our great state for the first few words that come to mind when they think of Texas and I can almost guarantee you that "big" is among the first words that you will hear. Just as Texas is one of the largest states in our great nation, the Texas Constitution is one of the largest constitutions in the nation. Uniqueness is another common trait that our constitution and state share. Even though the Texas Constitution dates back to 1876, all state operations rely upon this document, because unlike the vast majority of other states, in Texas only those powers expressly granted by the constitution are available to government. As society has greatly changed over the last 131 years in Texas, so has our Constitution. Though many of the constitutional changes are small and of little significance to the average Texan, the constitution has been amended over 400 times.
Now that we have taken a brief look at the history of our state constitution, let us turn to its future. On November 6th of this year, Texas voters will have the opportunity to vote for or against each of the sixteen proposed constitutional amendments approved by the 80th Legislature. The information that follows is just that, information to help you determine your own vote. Below are the first eight proposed constitutional amendments. Descriptions of the other eight proposed constitutional amendments will follow in a later column. I hope that you find this information helpful and please call my office if you need further information on any of the proposed constitutional amendments.
Proposition 1 - House Joint Resolution 103
Owing solely to the previously discussed restrictive nature of our constitution (only those powers expressly granted in the document are available to government), Proposition 1 seeks to grant the constitutional authority needed for Angelo State University to transfer into the Texas Tech University System.
Proposition 2 - Senate Joint Resolution 57
Proposition 2 seeks to provide the state with $500 million in bonding authority to satisfy the growing demand for student loans.
Proposition 3 - House Joint Resolution 40
Under current law the maximum amount a home's appraised value for tax purposes can rise in a single year is 10%. That said, a physical appraisal is only required once every three years. In many counties physical appraisals do, in fact, only take place in every third year. The result is that some homeowners face a 30% increase in their home's appraised value in a single year. Proposition 3 would limit the maximum increase in a home's appraised value to 10% in a single year.
Proposition 4 - Senate Joint Resolution 65
Roughly half of the funds from this bonding proposal would be disbursed to, among other state agencies, the Texas Building and Procurement Division, the Parks and Wildlife Department, the Department of Aging and Disability Services, and the Texas School for the Deaf. The remaining funds, some $500 million approximately, would go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for prison construction, repair and rehabilitation and to the Department of Public Safety for construction of peace officer training facilities and other needed projects.
Proposition 5 - Senate Joint Resolution 44
Applying only to municipalities with populations under 10,000, this measure seeks to grant those municipalities the optional power to halt property tax increases for 5 years for property owners who would participate in downtown revitalization efforts by renovating and improving downtown properties.
Proposition 6 - House Joint Resolution 54
In 2005 the legislature passed a measure exempting from taxation those motor vehicles used by an individual for both personal and business purposes. Since that time, however, a number of political subdivisions in the state have ignored the measure and continued to tax such vehicles. A recent opinion by the Attorney General upheld these political subdivisions' position, noting that the constitutional changes needed for such an exemption had not been made. Voter approval of Proposition 6 would ensure that a single vehicle owned by an individual and used for both personal and business use would not be subject to taxation.
Proposition 7 - House Joint Resolution 30
This measure would provide the state with the constitutional authority it needs in order to return property to a landowner from whom it was taken by eminent domain at the same rate paid to they were paid for it. The application of this will likely be very limited, and primarily used to return unneeded portions of property acquired by the state.
Proposition 8 - House Joint Resolution 72
Proposition 8 seeks to clarify some ambiguities regarding home equity loans, ensure that homeowners have access to the equity in their property in the event of a natural disaster, specify that agricultural use lien status is established on the date the property closes, and, in the case of oral applications, require the lender to send a copy of the application to the borrower before closing.