A Guide to the 2009 Constitutional Amendments
Part 2 of 2, Covering Propositions 7-11
In part one of this two part series, we looked back at the history of the Texas Constitution and forward at six of eleven constitutional amendments that will be on the November 3rd 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.
Given that the Texas Constitution was designed to be very restrictive, it is no surprise that it has so often been revisited to keep pace with the tremendous advancements in business and technology. Although several efforts have been made to completely 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.
As I mentioned in last week's column, on November 3rd of this year, Texas voters will have the opportunity to vote for or against each of the eleven proposed constitutional amendments approved by the 81st Texas Legislature. Early voting begins on October 19th, and I strongly encourage every Texas voter to take the time to review the amendments and go vote.
The descriptions below, covering Propositions 7-11, follow last week's description of Propositions 1-6. 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 7 (House Joint Resolution 127)
Proposition 7 would allow officers and enlisted members of the Texas State Guard and any other active militia or military force to hold more than one civil office of emolument at the same time.
Note: An office of emolument is an office for which the person who holds the office receives compensation.
Proposition 8 (House Joint Resolution 7)
Currently, 1.7 million veterans live in the state of Texas; however, the state currently lacks authority to contribute to a veterans hospital. As proposed, amendment 8 would encourage the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to partner with the state and with local communities to establish, maintain, and operate veterans hospitals.
Proposition 9 (House Joint Resolution 102)
The Texas open beaches act has served as one of the strongest coastal access laws in the nation. Proposition 9 would strengthen that law by clarifying its intent to protect the public's right to free and unrestricted access to public beaches.
Proposition 10 (House Joint Resolution 85)
Currently, the legislature is authorized to create emergency services districts governed by a board of commissioners to provide emergency medical services, emergency ambulance services, rural fire prevention and control services, or other emergency services. Proposition 10 would ensure that members of the governing board of an emergency services district may not serve terms that exceed four years.
Proposition 11 (House Joint Resolution 14)
Proposition 11 seeks to protect private property rights by prohibiting the taking of private property through the exercise of eminent domain authority if that taking is for the primary purpose of economic development or enhanced tax revenue. It would also prohibit the transfer of eminent domain authority from entity to another, and require that the legislature approve by a two-thirds vote (as opposed to a simple majority) the granting of eminent domain authority to any new entity. Finally, Proposition 11 would restrict the exercise of eminent domain authority due to urban blight by requiring that each property within the region subject to the taking be assessed, and not just the region as a whole.
Senator Hegar served two terms in the Texas House of Representatives and now represents Senate District 18 in the Texas Senate. Senate District 18 contains over one-third of the Texas coastline. He is a sixth generation Texan, and earns a living farming rice and corn on land that has been in his family since the mid 1800's. He currently resides in Katy, Texas with his wife Dara, and their three children, Claire, Julia, and Jonah.