Senator Bob Deuell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2007
CONTACT: Don T. Forse, Jr.
(512) 463-0102

CAPITOL UPDATE

ANALYSIS OF PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

(AUSTIN) -- On November 6, Texas voters will decide on proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution in the Constitutional Amendment election. The Texas Legislative Council (TLC) recently issued a condensed analysis of the amendments, a portion of which I have outlined in this update. For the full document, please visit the TLC website at www.tlc.state.tx.us, or feel free to contact my office.

Amendment No. 1 (H.J.R. No. 103)

The constitutional amendment providing for the continuation of the constitutional appropriation for facilities and other capital items at Angelo State University on a change in the governance of the university.

Summary: Section 17(a), Article VII, Texas Constitution, establishes the higher education fund to provide funding for facilities and other capital items at certain institutions of higher education listed in Section 17(b), Article VII, Texas Constitution. Angelo State University is listed in Section 17(b) as one of several component institutions of the Texas State University System, as the university was formerly under the governance of that system. However, in 2007, the 80th Legislature transferred the governance, management, control, and property of Angelo State University to the Texas Tech University System. In connection with that transfer, the proposed amendment would amend Section 17(b) by listing Angelo State University with the other component institutions of the Texas Tech University System. The proposed amendment will not affect the completion of the transfer of Angelo State University to the Texas Tech University System in any way. Furthermore, the proposed amendment appears to have no effect on Angelo State University’s eligibility to continue to receive funds from the higher education fund, but rather revises Section 17(b) to clarify that the university will continue to receive such funds regardless of the transfer of the university to the Texas Tech University System.

Amendment No. 2 (S.J.R. No. 57)

The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of $500 million in general obligation bonds to finance educational loans to students and authorizing bond enhancement agreements with respect to general obligation bonds issued for that purpose.

Summary: The proposed amendment adds Section 50b-6 to Article III of the Texas Constitution, which permits the legislature to authorize the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to issue general obligation bonds of the State of Texas in an amount not to exceed $500 million. The proceeds of the bonds must be used to provide educational loans to students. The proposed amendment also adds Section 50b-6A to Article III of the Texas Constitution, which permits the legislature to authorize the coordinating board to enter into bond enhancement agreements with appropriate entities with respect to the bonds to be authorized under Section 50b-6 as well as other general obligation bonds issued under current or former provisions of Article III to finance educational loans to students.

Amendment No. 3 (H.J.R. No. 40)

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide that the maximum appraised value of a residence homestead for ad valorem taxation is limited to the lesser of the most recent market value of the residence homestead as determined by the appraisal entity or 110 percent, or a greater percentage, of the appraised value of the residence homestead for the preceding tax year.

Summary: Currently, Subsection (i) of Section 1, Article VIII, Texas Constitution, authorizes the legislature to limit the maximum average annual percentage increase in the appraised value of a residence homestead for ad valorem tax purposes to 10 percent, or a greater percentage, for each year since the most recent tax appraisal of the homestead. The proposed amendment amends Subsection (i) to authorize the legislature to limit the maximum appraised value of a residence homestead for ad valorem tax purposes to the lesser of the most recent market value of the homestead as determined by the appraisal entity or 110 percent, or a greater percentage, of the appraised value of the homestead for the preceding tax year.

Amendment No. 4 (S.J.R. No. 65)

The constitutional amendment authorizing the issuance of up to $1 billion in bonds payable from the general revenues of the state for maintenance, improvement, repair, and construction projects and for the purchase of needed equipment.

Summary: The proposed amendment adds to Article III of the Texas Constitution a new Section 50-g allowing the legislature to authorize by law the issuance of up to $1 billion in general obligation bonds of the state to pay costs of maintenance, improvement, repair, or construction projects authorized by the legislature and to purchase needed equipment. The proposed amendment provides that the proceeds of the bonds may be used only for: (1) maintenance, improvement, repair, or construction projects that the legislature authorizes by general law or the General Appropriations Act; or (2) purchasing needed equipment, as authorized by law or the General Appropriations Act. The proposed amendment also provides that the projects or purchases must be administered by or on the behalf of one or more of the following state agencies: the Texas Building and Procurement Commission; the Parks and Wildlife Department; the adjutant general’s department; the Department of State Health Services; the Department of Aging and Disability Services; the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; the Texas Youth Commission; the Texas Historical Commission; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; the Texas School for the Deaf; or the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas.

If the proposed amendment is approved by the voters, Senate Bill No. 2033 will take effect. Senate Bill No. 2033 authorizes issuance of the bonds. Also, if the proposed amendment is approved by the voters, Section 19.71 of the General Appropriations Act for the 2008-2009 state fiscal biennium provides for the appropriation of $717,303,391 from the bond proceeds for projects of state agencies identified in Section 50-g(b), Article III, Texas Constitution, as added by the amendment, including $273.4 million to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for prison construction, repair, and rehabilitation and $200 million to the Department of Public Safety for various purposes. Also contingent on approval of the proposed amendment by the voters, the General Appropriations Act appropriates $56,742,868 out of general revenue for debt service payments for the bonds.

Amendment No. 5 (S.J.R. No. 44)

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit the voters of a municipality having a population of less than 10,000 to authorize the governing body of the municipality to enter into an agreement with an owner of real property in or adjacent to an area in the municipality that has been approved for funding under certain programs administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture under which the parties agree that all ad valorem taxes imposed on the owner’s property may not be increased for the first five tax years after the tax year in which the agreement is entered into.

Summary: The proposed amendment adds Section 1-o to Article VIII of the Texas Constitution to authorize the legislature to permit the voters of a city having a population of less than 10,000 to authorize the governing body of the city to enter into an agreement with an owner of real property in or adjacent to an area in the city that has been approved for funding under the Downtown Revitalization Program or the Main Street Improvements Program administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture under which the parties agree that the taxes imposed by any political subdivision on the owner’s property may not be increased for the first five tax years after the tax year in which the agreement is entered into.

Amendment No. 6 (H.J.R. No. 54)

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation one motor vehicle owned by an individual and used in the course of the owner’s occupation or profession and also for personal activities of the owner.

Summary: The proposed amendment amends Section 1(d), Article VIII, Texas Constitution, by adding Subdivision (4), authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation one motor vehicle owned by an individual used in the course of the owner’s occupation or profession and also used for personal activities of the owner. The proposed amendment would apply beginning with the tax year that begins on January 1, 2007, and authorizes the legislature to enact a law that applies the exemption to that entire tax year. House Bill No. 1022, also enacted during the most recent legislative session, takes effect contingent on the approval of the constitutional amendment and will implement the exemption authorized by House Joint Resolution No. 54 beginning with 2007 taxes.

Amendment No. 7 (H.J.R. No. 30)

The constitutional amendment to allow governmental entities to sell property acquired through eminent domain back to the previous owners at the price the entities paid to acquire the property.

Summary: Section 52(a), Article III, Texas Constitution, prohibits the legislature from authorizing a county, city, or other political subdivision of the state from lending its credit or granting public money or anything of value to or in aid of an individual, association, or corporation. The proposed amendment amends Article III by adding a new Section 52j that authorizes a governmental entity to sell real property acquired through eminent domain to the person from whom the governmental entity acquired the property, or to that person’s heirs, successors, or assigns, at the price the governmental entity paid for the property at the time the property was acquired if: (1) the public use for which the property was acquired is canceled; (2) no actual progress is made toward the public use during a prescribed period of time; or (3) the property is unnecessary for the public use for which the property was acquired.

Amendment No. 8 (H.J.R. No. 72)

The constitutional amendment to clarify certain provisions relating to the making of a home equity loan and use of home equity loan proceeds.

Summary: The proposed amendment amends Section 50, Article XVI, Texas Constitution, by making various changes relating to the eligibility for a home equity loan and the procedural requirements related to obtaining a home equity loan. Specifically, the proposed amendment provides that whether property is designated for agricultural use, which would make the property ineligible to secure a home equity loan, is determined as of the date of the loan closing; the application that begins the 12-day waiting period before the loan may close must be the loan application; the borrower must receive a copy of the loan application at least one business day before the loan may close; the one-year waiting period between home equity loans may be waived at the borrower’s request in the case of a declared emergency applicable to the area where the property securing the loans is located; a borrower may sign a loan document that has blanks left to be filled in if the blanks do not relate to substantive terms of the loan agreement; at the time the loan is made the borrower must receive a copy of the final loan application and all executed documents the owner signs at closing and those documents may be provided by a person other than the lender; and a borrower may not use an unsolicited preprinted check to obtain an advance on a home equity line of credit.

Amendment No. 9 (S.J.R. No. 29)

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt all or part of the residence homesteads of certain totally disabled veterans from ad valorem taxation and authorizing a change in the manner of determining the amount of the existing exemption from ad valorem taxation to which a disabled veteran is entitled.

Summary: The proposed amendment amends Section 1-b, Article VIII, Texas Constitution, by adding Subsection (i) authorizing the legislature by general law to exempt from ad valorem taxation all or part of the market value of the residence homesteads of certain disabled veterans. The proposed constitutional amendment also amends Subsection (b), Section 2, Article VIII, Texas Constitution, which currently authorizes the legislature to exempt a portion of the value of any property owned by a disabled veteran from ad valorem taxation. That subsection classifies disabled veterans into categories corresponding to ranges of disability ratings and specifies the amount of the ad valorem tax exemption to which veterans assigned to each category are entitled. The proposed amendment alters the ranges of disability ratings to which the categories correspond so that disabled veterans with certain ratings are shifted to the next higher category and are therefore entitled to receive an exemption in the greater amount to which the disabled veterans assigned to that category are entitled.

Amendment No. 10 (H.J.R. No. 69)

The constitutional amendment to abolish the constitutional authority for the office of inspector of hides and animals.

Summary: The proposed amendment removes obsolete references to the now defunct office of inspector of hides and animals in Sections 64 and 65(a), Article XVI, Texas Constitution.

Amendment No. 11 (H.J.R. No. 19)

The constitutional amendment to require that a record vote be taken by a house of the legislature on final passage of any bill, other than certain local bills, of a resolution proposing or ratifying a constitutional amendment, or of any other nonceremonial resolution, and to provide for public access on the Internet to those record votes.

Summary: The proposed amendment amends Section 12, Article III, Texas Constitution, by adding a new Subsection (b) to require that a vote taken on final passage of a bill, a resolution proposing or ratifying a constitutional amendment, or any other resolution other than a ceremonial or honorary resolution be a record vote with the vote of each member recorded in the journal of the applicable house. The proposed amendment allows either house to create exceptions for bills that apply only to one district or political subdivision. The proposed amendment also adds Subsection (d) to Section 12 of Article III to require that each house of the legislature make all record votes on final passage of a bill or resolution required by added Subsection (b) and as recorded in the journal of the particular house available to the public for at least two years on the Internet or a successor electronic communications system. For bills and for resolutions proposing or ratifying constitutional amendments, the record vote must be accessible both by the number assigned to the bill or resolution and according to the subject of the bill or constitutional amendment.

Amendment No. 12 (S.J.R. No. 64)

The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of general obligation bonds by the Texas Transportation Commission in an amount not to exceed $5 billion to provide funding for highway improvement projects.

Summary: The proposed amendment adds Section 49-p, Article III, Texas Constitution, to allow the legislature to authorize the Texas Transportation Commission to issue general obligation bonds of the State of Texas in an amount not to exceed $5 billion and enter into related credit agreements. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the bonds and a portion of the interest earned on the bonds may be used to pay the cost of administering highway improvement projects, the cost of issuing the bonds, and all or part of a payment owed under a credit agreement.

Amendment No. 13 (H.J.R. No. 6)

The constitutional amendment authorizing the denial of bail to a person who violates certain court orders or conditions of release in a felony or family violence case.

Summary: The proposed amendment amends Section 11b, Article I, Texas Constitution, to authorize the denial of bail at a subsequent hearing in certain misdemeanor cases involving family violence if the defendant is initially released on bail and after that release violates a condition of the release related to the safety of a victim or the community. The proposed amendment also would allow the legislature to provide by general law for the denial of bail to a defendant who is determined to have violated certain court orders rendered in a family violence case or to have committed an offense involving a violation of one of those orders.

Amendment No. 14 (H.J.R. No. 36)

The constitutional amendment permitting a justice or judge who reaches the mandatory retirement age while in office to serve the remainder of the justice’s or judge’s current term.

Summary: The proposed amendment amends Section 1-a, Article V, Texas Constitution, by allowing a justice or judge who has reached the mandatory retirement age, 75 years or an earlier age prescribed by the legislature, during the justice’s or judge’s term of office to continue serving until the expiration of the term of office to which the justice or judge was elected. The amendment provides a limited exception if the justice or judge is elected to serve or fill the remainder of a six-year term of office and the justice or judge reaches age 75 during the first four years of the term. This exception provides that the justice or judge may serve only until December 31 of the fourth year of the term to which the justice or judge was elected. This provision ensures that a justice or judge will not serve more than four years beyond age 75.

Amendment No. 15 (H.J.R. No. 90)

The constitutional amendment requiring the creation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and authorizing the issuance of up to $3 billion in bonds payable from the general revenues of the state for research in Texas to find the causes of and cures for cancer.

Summary: The proposed amendment adds Section 67 to Article III of the Texas Constitution requiring the legislature to create the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to: (1) make grants to public or private persons to implement the Texas Cancer Plan; (2) make grants to institutions of learning and advanced medical research facilities to research the causes of and cures for cancer, provide facilities for use in research into the causes of and cures for cancer, research therapies, protocols, medical pharmaceuticals, or procedures for the cure or substantial mitigation of cancer, and develop cancer prevention and control programs; (3) support institutions of learning and advanced medical research facilities in researching the causes of and cures for cancer; and (4) establish standards and oversight bodies to ensure the proper use of funds.

Under the proposed amendment, the legislature may authorize the Texas Public Finance Authority to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $3 billion to be used by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to carry out its purposes. The amount of bonds authorized to be issued in any year is limited to $300 million, and a grant of bond proceeds may be provided only to a recipient that has funds equal to one-half of the amount of the grant dedicated to the research that is the subject of the requested grant.

House Bill No. 14, enacted by the 80th Legislature, Regular Session, 2007, and signed into law by the governor, provides for the creation of the institute and permits the issuance of the bonds if the constitutional amendment is approved by the voters.

Amendment No. 16 (S.J.R. No. 20)

The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $250 million to provide assistance to economically distressed areas.

Summary: The proposed amendment adds Section 49-d-10 to Article III of the Texas Constitution to allow the Texas Water Development Board to issue additional general obligation bonds for the economically distressed areas program account of the Texas Water Development Fund II in an amount not to exceed $250 million. Section 49-d-8(e), Article III, Texas Constitution, which pertains to the payment of bonds issued for an account of the Texas Water Development Fund II and the use of money in the account, would apply to the bonds authorized by Section 49-d-10.

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