A Guide to the 2007 Constitutional Amendments
Part 2 of 2, Covering Propositions 9-16
In part one of this two part series, we looked back at the history of the Texas Constitution and forward at eight of sixteen constitutional amendments that will be on the November 6th ballot. In that discussion, two features of our constitution came to the forefront, its size and uniqueness. Size was discussed because our constitution is one of the largest such documents in all the 50 states and uniqueness was a subject because our constitution differs from nearly all other state constitutions in that only those powers expressly granted in it are available to government. Before we review the last eight constitutional amendments, let us turn briefly to an interesting multiyear chapter in the Texas Constitution's history.
In the late 1960's there was a groundswell of public support for an overhaul of the Texas Constitution. The public had concluded that the document was too cumbersome and expansive. In 1969 an entire article was repealed (Article XIII on Spanish and Mexican Land Titles). Two years later, the legislature passed a resolution calling for a Constitutional Revision Commission and for the legislature to meet in joint session as a constitutional convention.
By this point in our discussion, I expect you will not be surprised to learn that the legislature's plan to meet as a constitutional convention required constitutional authority (again, due to the fact that only those powers expressly granted in the constitution are available to government). That authority was granted in 1972 when 63% of Texas' voters approved the plan. The next step was appointment of the 37 member panel who would make up the Constitutional Revision Commission. The panel was selected by representatives from each of the three branches of government, executive, legislative, and judicial, and was comprised of respected private citizens as well as former public officials. Despite the sterling credentials and diligent undertakings of the panel, the push by special interests for favorable treatment under a new constitution muddied the waters and led to the commission's failure to agree on a revised constitution.
In 1975, the push for a new state constitution was revived when the 64th Legislature decided to revisit the work done by the Constitutional Revision Commission and managed, with the required two-thirds majority, to agree to eight amendments that together would form a new Texas Constitution. In November of 1975, the eight amendments went before Texas' voters for final approval. Many Texans professed ignorance of the proposed amendments and only 23% of registered voters cast ballots. All eight amendments failed by a wide margin and with that the push for a new constitution, despite great effort by many of the state's brightest and most talented individuals, died with a whimper.
In the 32 years since, several efforts have been made to overhaul the constitution; all lacked the requisite momentum and support. Undoubtedly the future holds renewed calls for a revision of the Texas Constitution, the only question is when. While your guess as to that time is as good as mine, one thing that I can guarantee is that the Texas Constitution will continue to change in response to the dynamic needs of our state.
Below you will find a brief description for eight of the sixteen proposed constitutional amendments. The descriptions, for Propositions 9-16, follow last week's description of Propositions 1-8. If you missed that column or would like additional information about anything you read below, please do not hesitate to call upon me or my staff for assistance.
Proposition 9 - Senate Joint Resolution 29
Under current law disabled veterans are eligible for a discount in their property tax rate. Proposition 9 seeks to increase the discount for disabled veterans and to provide totally disabled veterans with a full exemption from property taxes.
Proposition 10 - House Joint Resolution 69
The office of inspector of hides and animals no longer exists. Proposition 10 would remove all references to it from the constitution.
Proposition 11 - House Joint Resolution 19
This amendment would require that all votes cast during final passage of a bill be recorded and posted to the internet. Exceptions would exist for votes affecting only a single political subdivision of the state and for votes cast on resolutions, which do not make changes to state law.
Proposition 12 - Senate Joint Resolution 64
If the voters were to approve this measure, the Texas Transportation Commission would gain the authority to issue up to $5 billion in general obligation bonds to fund highway improvement projects. Senator Carona, the author of Senate Joint Resolution 64 and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, has stated that he will introduce legislation to ensure that funding from the sale of these bonds will not go to any tolled roadway projects.
Proposition 13 - House Joint Resolution 6
This measure would provide judges with the authority to deny bail to those persons arrested on family violence charges who violate the terms of a protective order.
Proposition 14 - House Joint Resolution 36
Current law requires judges to retire from the bench upon reaching the age of 75. Proposition 14 would allow a judge reaching the age of 75 during their term of office to complete the term.
Proposition 15 - House Joint Resolution 90
Should Proposition 15 be approved by the electorate, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas will be created. The Institute would administer up to $3 billion in grants to organizations for use in the research of cancer and search for cures.
Proposition 16 - Senate Joint Resolution 20
Proposition 16 proposes a constitutional amendment to provide the Texas Water Development Board with the authority to issue up to $250 million in bonds to finance water and wastewater infrastructure needs in economically distressed areas.