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Proposed Texas Constitutional Amendments, Part 2

More on the final 5 ballot proposals

Last week’s column discussed the first five ballot propositions, ranging from tax exemptions to water projects. Early voting ends today (November 4) and the general election is on Tuesday (November 8).

Proposition 6, if approved by voters, would affect the state’s “permanent school fund”. This is an endowment funded by a portion of the state’s land and mineral wealth. Right now, when the fund has adequate investment returns, the State Board of Education can distribute money to the “available school fund” which is then granted to individual school districts to buy books, computers, and other educational necessities. The fund can only make those distributions if its value and income meets certain levels. The proposition would allow another pool of resources (controlled by the “School Land Board”) to be included in the mix. Proponents say that this amendment validates funding that the legislature has attempted to use for the schools but has been blocked by restrictions in the constitution. They say this would give schools statewide about $150 million extra in 2011-2012. Opponents call this an accounting trick that would harm the endowment fund by diverting long term investments into short term spending, only to cover-up a state revenue deficit.

Proposition 7 would authorize the legislature to allow El Paso County to form a parks district which could issue bonds for parks and recreation. Voters in El Paso county are currently not allowed to form a parks district. This amendment would allow them to hold a vote. If they later approve a district, additional steps could be taken regarding funding with local taxpayer revenue.

Proposition 8 would add another tax break for farmers and ranchers. They can already get tax valuation of their land based on its productive capacity (not on its market value). The proposition would, if approved, allow water projects (like erosion control or wetland conservation) to set the mark for the land’s productivity. Proponents say this would encourage positive environmental action from landowners and keep our water supply cleaner. Opponents say that landowners already have economic incentives to conserve water, and that this tax break is not needed.

Proposition 9 would give the governor authority to issue a pardon after a successful deferred adjudication. Right now, deferred adjudication is a criminal law process that allows a defendant, after court approval, to serve probation for certain types of criminal acts. When the probation is successfully completed, the charges are dropped (but if the defendant gets into further trouble the defendant is treated as having plead guilty to the charges and is sentenced accordingly). The proposition, if passed, would purge the record for defendants who successfully complete deferred adjudication and who are granted a governor’s pardon. Proponents think this clears barriers for those who made mistakes and have met the terms of their probation (for instance, when seeking new employment). Opponents think this gives the governor another tool for political favors, and reduces access to true information about a person’s criminal past.

Proposition 10 would modify current Texas law when an office holder wants to run for a different post. Now, some elected officials whose current term in office is longer than 1 year must resign from office to declare candidacy for other elected office. A change to federal law caused the legislature to modify certain filing deadlines, and Prop 10 would change the constitution to conform to those new deadlines. Essentially, instead of resigning if there are more than 12 months left to serve, the official would only have to resign if there more than 13 months left to serve. It seems to be a minor technical adjustment. The only opposition to this proposal is from those who feel the entire “resign-to-run” rule should be repealed, but that is not at all addressed in Proposition 10.

Paul Premack is a Certified Elder Law Attorney practicing estate planning and probate law in San Antonio.

Original Publication: San Antonio Express News, November 4, 2011


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