The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

October 19, 2013

Early voting begins Monday for Nov. 5 state constitutional amendment election

By CRISTIN REECE
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

Early voting for this year's state constitutional amendment election opens Monday.

Voters in Anderson County can visit the Anderson County Courthouse Annex, 703 N. Mallard St., in Palestine. Early ballots may be cast from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Nov. 1.

“Constitutional elections historically have low voter turn-out, so it'd be nice to see more voters get out this year,” Anderson County Elections Director Casey Brown said.

She reminds voters to bring an up-to-date form of photo identification when they vote, as per a new state mandate. All Texas voters are now required to present a form of photo ID to vote in person. According to the website, www.votetexas.com, forms of identification that will be accepted include:

• a Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS);

• a Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS;

• a Texas personal identification card issued by DPS;

• a Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS;

• a U.S. military identification card containing the person’s photograph;

• a U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph; or

• a U.S. passport.

“With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place,” the website states.

This year's ballot includes nine amendment to the Texas State Constitution.

The House Research Organization (HRO) is a nonpartisan independent department of the Texas House of Representatives. It provides impartial information on legislation and issues before the Texas Legislature.

The HRO is governed by a broadly representative steering committee of 15 House members elected by the House membership to set policy for the organization, approve its budget, and ensure that its reports are objective.

The Texas House of Representative's House Research Organization (HRO) has published a breakdown of each proposed amendment, which can be found at the HRO's website, www.hro.house.state.tx.us.

• Proposition 1 (HJR 62) would grant a property tax exemption to the widow or widower of a member of the U.S. military who was killed in action. The tax exemption would apply to the couple's residential homestead until the surviving spouse remarried.

The HRO's report indicates supporters of the proposed amendment said the amendment would “provide real assistance to a surviving spouse...,” while opponents cite concerns with the proposition's failure to impose a time limit on the exemption and would cost “local taxing authorities hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

• Proposition 2 (HJR 79) The constitutional amendment eliminates an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational. This amendment would allow state legislators to condense the state's constitution, which is among the longest in the country.

• Proposition 3 (HJR 133) The constitutional amendment would authorize a political subdivision to extend the number of days aircraft parts that are exempt from ad valorem taxation due to their location in this state for a temporary period may be located in this state for purposes of qualifying for the tax exemption.

The HRO's report shows proponents of the proposition feel “the (current) maximum period is of insufficient duration to benefit many airplane part manufacturers.” Those in opposition of the amendment, the HRO reports, said it would “allow a political subdivision to extend a free port exemption for a specific group selling goods for a certain purpose. Singling out one group for a tax exemption... raises issues of uniformity in taxation.”

• Proposition 4 (HJR 24) The constitutional amendment authorizes the legislature to provide a property tax exemption to partially disabled veterans or the surviving spouses of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization.

According to the HRO, supporters state, “The proposal is tailored to apply only to veterans who were disabled during their military service and who received a home from a charitable organization. This tax exemption would cost local governments very little and... would be appropriate considering the sacrifices made by these veterans.” Those against the proposed amendment feel like it would also raise issues of taxation uniformity and “could open the door for continued erosion of the local tax base. ... local governments will need to collect more tax revenue from the remaining taxpayers in order to raise the same amount of money.”

• Proposition 5 (SJR 18) The constitutional amendment to authorize the making of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property and to amend lender disclosures and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan.

HRO reports those for the proposition maintain it would help senior citizens “make an informed decision to use a reverse mortgage to purchase a home. ...Texas is the only state in which seniors cannot get reverse mortgages for home purchases.” Opponents to the issue argue “the state's sharp restrictions on home equity lending sheltered Texans from much of the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis. Loosening these restrictions... could make Texans more vulnerable to future financial difficulties.”

• Proposition 6 (SJR 1) The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.

The HRO found supporters of this proposal feel that “providing a funding program for water infrastructure to ensure an adequate water supply would be an appropriate use of the Rainy Day Fund. It was created as a savings account from which the Legislature may appropriate fund in times of an emergency, and the state is on the cusp of a drought worse than the 1950s drought of record.” Opponents reportedly feel using the Rainy Day Fund would hurt the state's AAA bond rating. “Texas needs to keep sufficient revenue in the Rainy Day Fund, and this large an appropriation out of the fund could put at risk the state's ability to maintain its AAA bond rating and could imperil what has become a major state asset,” the HRO report states.

• Proposition 7 (HJR 87) The constitutional amendment authorizing a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less.

Supporters, according to the HRO, reason amending this part of the Constitution would help stem a city's election costs by eliminating the requirement of holding a special elections. “Citizens of home-rule cities should be able to decided through their charters how they want to fill vacancies,” the HRO report states. Those against the measure said “the cost of a special election is small price to pay to ensure accountability in city government. Prop. 7 could increase the opportunity for corruption in local government by allowing city officials to avoid elections and appoint political allies,” the HRO states.

• Proposition 8 (HJR 147 and SJR 54) The constitutional amendment repealing Section 7, Article IX, Texas Constitution, which relates to the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County.

Supporters said the proposition would “remove (an) outdated provision from the Constitution, allowing Hidalgo County to create a hospital district under the more favorable conditions available to other counties,” HRO reports. Opponents argue the proposed amendment could “open the door to an increase in taxes for Hildalgo County property owners... which could be set as high as 75 cents per $100 property valuation.”

• Proposition 9 (SJR 42) The constitutional amendment relating to expanding 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.

Proponents of Prop 9 feel it “would ensure that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct had adequate tools to respond to allegations of alleged judicial misconduct...,” the HRO report states. Those in opposition said they didn't think those provisions should be expanded because, “they help ensure that formal proceedings are used only in the most serious cases of alleged judicial misconduct. This helps protect the confidentiality of judges and shields them from public exposure resulting from low-level or unwarranted allegations and from those unhappy with the results of a case or from political opponents,” according to the HRO.