Senator Carona's Email Update
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October 17, 2013

What's New . . .

Focus - Proposed Constitutional Amendments . . .

The Texas Constitution allows the Legislature, by a 2/3 vote of approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, to propose revisions to the Constitution by amendment. Proposed amendments are then put before voters for adoption by a majority vote. Below is a brief analysis of each the proposed constitutional amendments that will be before voters on the November 5 ballot, as well as some of the positions for and against each amendment. For more detailed information about the amendments, I recommend reviewing the Texas Legislative Council publication Analyses of Proposed Constitutional Amendments.

Amendment 1 (H.J.R. 62)
Proposed Amendment 1 would give the surviving spouse of a member of the United States armed services who is killed in action an exemption from property taxation for all or part of the market value of the surviving spouse's residence homestead if he or she has not remarried since the death of the member of the armed services.
For: Proponents of Amendment 1 believe that surviving spouses of members of the military killed in action should receive the same benefits received by surviving spouses of totally disabled members of the military — especially since the exemption could provide some financial security for those facing an uncertain future, particularly newly single parents. Additionally, because relatively few people would qualify for this benefit, the impact on local government would be small.
Against: There was no opposition expressed to H.J.R. 62 during the legislative process. However, some have expressed a general concern that increasing the number of tax exemptions could affect the ability of local governments to generate revenue, resulting in an eventual increase in property taxes.

Amendment 2 (H.J.R. 79)
Proposed Amendment 2 would remove obsolete provisions from the Texas Constitution that require the Legislature to create a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is currently operational.
For: The Medical Education Board was intended to provide support for medical students who agree to practice in rural areas of the state. The requirement to create a Board and its supporting Fund was added to the Constitution in 1952 but a Board was not created until 1973 and, even then, proponents of Amendment 2 say, was largely ineffective in serving its purpose. As a result, it has not received funds for more than 20 years and removing the requirement to create the Board and Fund was recommended long ago by the Sunset Advisory Commission and the Legislative Budget Board. Proposed Amendment 2 would simply remove the now obsolete provisions of the Texas Constitution.
Against: There is no known opposition to this proposed Amendment.

Amendment 3 (H.J.R. 133)
The "freeport exemption" exempts from property taxation goods for export that are acquired in, imported into, or detained in Texas to be assembled, stored, or manufactured here. To qualify for the exemption, the goods must be exported within 175 days after the date of importation or acquisition. The exemption was created in the Texas Constitution to encourage manufacturing and other commercial activities in the state. Proposed Amendment 3 would extend the tax exemption period for storing aircraft parts from 175 days to two years, or 730 days.
For: Proponents of this Amendment say that the current 175-day tax exemption period is not long enough for aerospace manufacturers, which must often hold aircraft parts in inventory for longer periods of time because the parts may not be needed by a customer for many months and raw materials for parts may be in limited production requiring suppliers to purchase in bulk and maintain an inventory of parts on hand.
Against: There is no known opposition to this proposed Amendment. However, the cost to local governments is unknown as it is not clear how many taxing entities would extend this exemption to the aerospace industry.

Amendment 4 (H.J.R 24)
Current law gives 100 percent or totally disabled veterans a property tax exemption for all or part of the value of their residence homestead. Proposed Amendment 4 would authorize the Legislature to create a new homestead exemption for partially disabled veterans when the home is donated to the veteran at no cost or by a charitable organization. The exemption is equal to the percentage of the disability of the disabled veteran.
For: Some homebuilders and charitable organizations wish to honor veterans by donating a home to them at no cost. However, for some disabled veterans, disability benefits may not provide enough income to cover property taxes on the home. The proposed Amendment would assist disabled veterans in retaining the gift.
Against: There is no known opposition to this proposed Amendment.

Amendment 5 (S.J.R. 18)
A reverse mortgage for purchase allows borrowers 62 years and older to access the equity in their current home and use the proceeds from the sale of the home to finance the purchase of a new property. This financing tool is available in all 49 states except Texas. Proposed Amendment 5 authorizes the use of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property in Texas and also amends lender disclosure and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan.
For: Proponents of the Amendment point out that reverse mortgages for purchase combine two transactions into one, thus allowing borrowers to save on closing costs and adding flexibility to the home purchasing process. Proponents believe the change would make it easier for older homeowners to relocate in order to downsize or to be closer to family or medical care by allowing homeowners to sell one property and purchase another in a single transaction, using equity in their current home to make a cash down payment on a new home. The provisions of proposed Amendment 5 would also create important consumer safeguards, such as a 12-day disclosure period, in order to ensure that the borrower is aware of his or her obligations.
Against: There is no known opposition to this proposed Amendment.

Amendment 6 (S.J.R. 1)
Proposed Amendment 6 would provide for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIFRT), which would be intended to provide financing for priority water development projects identified in the State Water Plan. Specifically, proposed Amendment 6 would create an infrastructure bank that would operate as a revolving fund for low-cost financing of water projects. In order to establish SWIFT and SWIFRT, the state authorized a one-time appropriation of $2 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund ("Rainy Day" fund) for the purpose of financing the water projects. If authorized by voters, the funds will be used to support the issuance of bonds, the proceeds of which will be offered as loans to support development of the water management strategies.
For: Proponents argue that the financing tools provided for by this Amendment would help to ensure an adequate water supply for future generations of Texans, which is critical to supporting the state's economic growth. If water needs are left unmet, it could likely result in the loss of jobs, income, and tax revenue. Proponents believe that using money from the Economic Stabilization Fund is appropriate since the Fund was created to allow the state to respond to emergencies, such as the current drought.
Against: Opponents argue that the state should not draw funds from the Economic Stabilization Fund to fund SWIFT, but should use funds from the General Revenue Fund instead. They believe drawing from the Economic Stabilization Fund could hamper the state's ability to respond to a future crisis.

Amendment 7 (H.J.R. 87)
If the term of office for a member of the governing body of a home-rule municipality is more than two years and less than four years, current law prohibits the appointment of a person to fill a vacancy in the governing body. The vacancy is instead required to be filled through a special election within 120 days after the date the vacancy occurs, regardless of the number of months remaining in the member's vacated term. Proposed Amendment 7 would remove the requirement for home-rule municipalities to hold a mandatory special election under these circumstances and authorize the municipality to create other procedures to fill such vacancies when the positions have less than 12 months remaining in the term.
For: Proponents say that the requirement for a home-rule municipality to hold a special election for short term vacancies results in increased expenses for municipalities, taxpayers, and candidates since general elections follow soon after special elections.
Against: No opposition to this proposed Amendment was made known during the legislative process. However, some are concerned that procedures that would fill vacancies by appointment could decrease accountability in government.

Amendment 8 (H.J.R. 147 and S.J.R. 54)
In 1959, the Texas Constitution was amended to give the Legislature authority to create a hospital district in Hidalgo County. The provision limited the property tax rate that the district could impose to 10 cents per $100 valuation of taxable property. In 1962, the state authorized the creation of hospital districts statewide limiting the property tax rate districts may impose to 75 cents per $100 valuation of taxable property. Because of the existing provision relating specifically to Hidalgo County, if the County were to create a hospital district now, the tax rate would be limited to 10 cents per $100 valuation. Proposed Amendment 8 would repeal the provision in the Constitution authorizing the Legislature to create a hospital district in Hidalgo County putting Hidalgo County in an equal position with other Texas counties. To be clear, the Amendment does not create a hospital district in Hildalgo County. Should Hildalgo County decide to create a district, that decision would be required to be approved by local voters.
For: Hildalgo County has never authorized a county hospital district, but if voters there were to attempt to do so now, it would not be feasible at the 10 cent rate provided for in 1959. Proponents say repealing this constitutional limitation will give Hidalgo County the same flexibility that other Texas counties enjoy should voters there decide to create a hospital district.
Against: There is no known opposition to this proposed Amendment.

Amendment 9 (S.J.R. 42)
Proposed Amendment 9 would expand the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following a formal proceeding instituted by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to include a public admonition, warning, reprimand, or requirement that the judge or justice obtain additional training or education.
For: The Texas Constitution authorizes the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, following an investigation of a complaint filed against a judge or justice, to issue a private or public admonition, warning, reprimand, or requirement that the judge or justice obtain additional training. These sanctions are usually considered in closed informal proceedings, which are considered remedial in nature and are meant as a deterrent. However, if there is a more serious complaint that results in a formal proceeding, the only sanctions available are measures of public censure, removal, or retirement of the judge or justice. Supporters of Amendment 9 say this limitation serves as a disincentive to pursue formal proceedings in cases that may be of public importance.
Against: There is no known opposition to this proposed Amendment.

In Closing . . .

The proposed constitutional amendments on the November 5 ballot concern matters of importance to all the citizens of Texas — so please remember to vote! Early voting for the election begins Monday, October 21 and ends on November 1. Remember that you will need photo identification when voting in person. For more information about the types of identification accepted, please visit the Secretary of State's website.

Please visit the Secretary of State's website for more information about what is on the ballot and information about the election. The Dallas County Elections Department also provides a sample ballot and early voting locations, dates, and times. Please contact my office if you have any questions about these proposed amendments or the November election. I am always happy to hear from you.


John Carona
State Senator - District 16

Capitol Office District Offices
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, TX 78711
512-463-3135 (fax)
8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
214-378-5739 (fax)
5401 N. Central Expy.
Suite 300
Dallas, TX 75205
214-953-1886 (fax)