From the Office of State Senator John Carona

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROPOSITIONS

November 6, 2001 Ballot
from State Senator John Carona (R-Dallas)

PROPOSITION 1: The constitutional amendment providing for clearing of land titles by the release of a state claim of its interest to the owners of certain land in Bastrop County.
SUMMARY: Would relinquish the state's surface interest in 127 vacant, surveyed acres of Permanent School Fund land in Bastrop County which is owned by 20 people. This PROPOSITION would clear the titles for the owners of this land. The state would not receive payment for the land; it would retain any mineral interest in the land.
PROS: Would clear titles and cancel any payment obligation for state land held by innocent parties and save the state an expensive court fight.
CONS: Would not treat all claimants to the disputed land equally and this matter is best left to the courts to decide, not the voters. The Permanent School Fund would give up title to land at an estimated value of $383,000.

PROPOSITION 2: The constitutional amendment authorizing the issuance of state general obligation bonds and notes to provide financial assistance to counties for roadway projects to serve border colonias.
SUMMARY: Would provide up to $175 million in bonds to assist border counties in building access roads to connect colonias to existing public roads. Colonias are rural residential subdivisions located in unincorporated areas of counties, typically consisting of substandard housing with few utilities or amenities and little or no infrastructure.
PROS: Would create a new state funding source to help provide much-needed roads to and from colonias.
CONS: Would set a bad precedent by borrowing state money and putting a state agency (the Texas Department of Transportation) in charge of building residential and access roads best managed by local government. Would also unfairly favor one part of the state over the rest.

PROPOSITION 3: The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation raw cocoa and green coffee that is held in Harris County.
SUMMARY: Would exempt from local property taxation raw cocoa and green coffee held in Harris County.
PROS: Would make the Port of Houston eligible to be designated an exchange port for coffee by the New York Board of Trade. This would bring global recognition and spur long-term investment in Houston warehouse facilities.
CONS: Would reduce tax revenue for local governments and school districts in Harris County.

PROPOSITION 4: The constitutional amendment providing for a four-year term of office for the fire fighters' pension commissioner.
SUMMARY: Would change the term of the fire fighters' pension commissioner from two years to four years.
PROS: Would eliminate the cumbersome process of selecting a nominee and securing Senate confirmation of the fire fighters' pension commissioner every two years.
CONS: Other executive directors of state agencies with more responsibilities face review by the governor and Senate every two years.

PROPOSITION 5: The constitutional amendment authorizing municipalities to donate outdated or surplus firefighting equipment or supplies to underdeveloped countries.
SUMMARY: Would provide needed authorization allowing Texas cities and towns to donate outdated or surplus firefighting equipment to Mexico. Current restrictions require local governments to sell this equipment, preventing donation.
PROS: Provides a use for equipment that no longer is up to departmental standards but is still usable equipment.
CONS: This taxpayer-financed equipment instead should be donated to local governments, rural fire prevention districts, or volunteer fire departments in Texas, not Mexico.

PROPOSITION 6: The constitutional amendment requiring the governor to call a special session for the appointment of presidential electors under certain circumstances.
SUMMARY: Would require the governor to call a special session of the legislature to appoint presidential electors if the outcome of the presidential election is in doubt and would not be determined before the final certification deadline for the state's electors to the Electoral College.
PROS: Would remove any question that the Texas Legislature has the ultimate authority in a contested election to ensure that Texas is not prevented by an electoral stalemate from choosing electors to the Electoral College.
CONS: This amendment is not needed because current statutory and constitutional law already authorizes the governor to preside over contests of presidential electors and to make a final determination, as well as to call special sessions of the Legislature.

PROPOSITION 7: The constitutional amendment authorizing the Veterans' Land Board (VLB) to issue up to $500 million in general obligation bonds payable from the general revenues of the state for veterans' housing assistance and to use assets in certain veterans' land and veterans' housing assistance funds to provide for veterans' cemeteries.
SUMMARY: Would provide $500 million to assist in providing low interest mortgage loans of up to $150,000 for veterans in Texas. It would also permit use of these funds to plan, design, operate, maintain, enlarge, or improve veterans' cemeteries.
PROS: Would provide much-needed support to meet the increasing demand for veterans' home mortgage loans. It would also give the VLB flexibility to develop a state veterans' cemetery program.
CONS: Texas veterans deserve aid, but there are many state and federal benefits already available to them. Texas should not increase its debt at this time for this purpose.

PROPOSITION 8: The constitutional amendment authorizing the issuance of up to $850 million in bonds payable from the general revenues of the state for construction and repair projects and for the purchase of needed equipment.
SUMMARY: Would expand the use and availability of state general obligation bonds for use by numerous state agencies for repair and construction projects or for equipment.
PROS: Using bonds for capital improvements would be an appropriate way to stretch state dollars to pay for long-term projects for state agencies.
CONS: This is a blank check for the Legislature providing voters no say in how these bonds are spent. Bonds should not be used to finance repairs since these are a predictable cost for which agencies should budget appropriately each session.

PROPOSITION 9: The constitutional amendment authorizing the filling of a vacancy in the legislature without an election if a candidate is running unopposed in an election to fill the vacancy.
SUMMARY: Would eliminate the unnecessary expense and administrative burden of holding a special election for the legislature if a candidate has no opponent.
PROS: Would spare the state and counties the requirement of holding special elections to fill vacancies in the Legislature when candidates run unopposed.
CONS: Would deprive voters of their right to vote for candidates, including write-ins, and of knowing the names of their elected leaders.

PROPOSITION 10: The constitutional amendment to promote equal tax treatment for products produced, acquired, and distributed in the State of Texas by authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation tangible personal property held at certain locations only temporarily for assembling, manufacturing, processing, or other commercial purposes.
SUMMARY: Would provide a property tax exemption for goods stored temporarily en route to another location in Texas or outside the state. The property would have to be acquired in or brought into Texas and stored at a location for less than 270 days after acquisition or importation.
PROS: Would be an important first step in helping Texas regain its share of the warehousing and distribution markets and stem the loss of these customers and jobs to other states.
CONS: This proposal is ill-timed with eroding local tax bases and the looming school funding crisis.

PROPOSITION 11: The constitutional amendment to allow current and retired public school teachers and retired public school administrators to receive compensation for serving on the governing bodies of school districts, cities, towns, or other local governmental districts, including water districts.
SUMMARY: Would allow current or retired school teachers and retired administrators to receive pay for serving on governing bodies.
PROS: Would increase the pool of qualified candidates for governing boards of local governmental bodies.
CONS: Would address a non-existent problem and could promote conflicts of interests for persons serving in two public positions.

PROPOSITION 12: The constitutional amendment to eliminate obsolete, archaic, redundant, and unnecessary provisions and to clarify, update, and harmonize certain provisions of the Texas Constitution.
SUMMARY: Would remove, reword, relocate, or repeal numerous obsolete sections of the Texas Constitution.
PROS: Would streamline the Texas Constitution.
CONS: Rather than amend or repeal certain sections, the state should overhaul the entire document.

PROPOSITION 13: The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to authorize the board of trustees of an independent school district to donate certain surplus district property of historical significance in order to preserve the property.
SUMMARY: Would allow school districts to donate surplus property and improvements formerly used as a school campus after the district has determined it does not need the property for educational purposes and the transfer would further the preservation of the campus.
PROS: Would protect and preserve old, original schoolhouses. Many community organizations have maintained these, but they remain the property of the school district which is only allowed to sell the property under current law.
CONS: Rather than further clutter the Texas Constitution, the Legislature should overhaul the whole document.

PROPOSITION 14: The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to authorize taxing units other than school districts to exempt from ad valorem taxation travel trailers that are not held or used for the production of income.
SUMMARY: Would exempt from property taxes, other than by school districts, travel trailers not used for the production of income.
PROS: Would provide uniformity and fairness in local taxation of travel trailers and would help promote tourism by encouraging more people to visit the state for longer periods of time.
CONS: Would create a special class of homeowner and unfairly provide a tax exemption just because the home is mobile. Would also further complicate the property tax system and erode local property tax bases.

PROPOSITION 15: The constitutional amendment creating the Texas Mobility Fund and authorizing grants and loans of money and issuance of obligations for financing the construction, reconstruction, acquisition, operation, and expansion of state highways, turnpikes, toll roads, toll bridges, and other mobility projects.
SUMMARY: Would create the Texas Mobility Fund in the state treasury and allow the Texas Transportation Commission to issue bonds for transportation projects.
PROS: Would provide an innovative mechanism for stretching state highway dollars to build badly needed highways sooner. Would also make it possible for some projects to proceed as toll roads which would reduce contributions by local governments to needed projects.
CONS: Using this mechanism to borrow money could make highways more, not less ,expensive due to debt service, underwriting, and insurance costs. Would provide no new money; would only reallocate it and tie up future dollars today.

PROPOSITION 16: The constitutional amendment prescribing requirements for imposing a lien for work and material used in the construction, repair, or renovation of improvements on residential homestead property and including the conversion and refinance of a personal property lien secured by a manufactured home to lien on real property as a debt on homestead property protected from a forced sale.
SUMMARY: Would reduce from 12 to five days the period ("cooling-off" period) that must elapse before a homeowner (or spouse) may execute a contract for home improvements in order for a lien to attach on the homestead for failure to pay for the work. It also would add conversion and refinance of a lien on personal property secured by a manufactured home to a lien on real property.
PROS: Would make the "cooling-off" period more reasonable while still maintaining adequate consumer protections. Would also ensure manufactured homeowners could convert their titles when they permanently attach their home to land and convert their liens in personal property to liens on real estate.
CONS: Voters approved the 12-day "cooling off" period and this protection should not be diluted. Allowing conversion or refinancing of debt for manufactured housing could influence these homeowners to put their homes at risk of foreclosure.

PROPOSITION 17: The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to settle land titles disputes between the state and a private party.
SUMMARY: Would authorize the state to relinquish claim to certain land (referred to as "scrap titles"), other than mineral rights, if the owners can show they had a title that originated before January 1, 1952.
PROS: Would create a permanent mechanism to settle land-title disputes involving public school lands without the expense and trouble of a constitutional amendment election for each disputed case.
CONS: Some of this land may be very valuable and should be examined on an individual basis.

PROPOSITION 18: The constitutional amendment to promote uniformity in the collection, deposit, reporting, and remitting of civil and criminal fees.
SUMMARY: Would invalidate a criminal or civil court fee that was required to be collected by local government personnel and remitted to the comptroller unless the requirements governing the fee conformed to a consolidation and standardization program enacted by the Legislature. It would only apply to fees imposed after the Legislature enacted the program.
PROS: Would help ease a wasteful administrative burden on local governments and courts as the court fees cities and counties must track have doubled in the past ten years.
CONS: Would make it difficult to add a court fee in the future. This amendment is unnecessary as these changes can be made through statute.

PROPOSITION 19: The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) in an amount not exceed $2 billion.
SUMMARY: Would allow the TWDB to issue up to $2 billion in additional general obligation bonds.
PROS: Would provide low-interest bonds allowing Texas communities to finance projects for water supply, water quality, and flood control.
CONS: The board still has authorization remaining for $490 million in bonds, making this vote premature.

For more information on these amendments, refer to the Capitol Website at "www.capitol.state.tx.us". At this site, click on "House Research Organization" under "House of Representatives" and then click on "Constitutional Amendments" to download the report.

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