By Representative Tan Parker
The November following every regular session of the Texas Legislature marks an important moment in Texas, our state’s constitutional amendment election. Our system of government is set up so that if our constitution requires an amendment (as it frequently does) then that measure must pass through the legislature with two-thirds vote in each chamber and then be ratified by the voters of this state. Through this process, Texans have been instrumental in such policy reforms as curbing lawsuit abuse, increasing transparency in government, improving higher education, and even cancer research.
This November, we will be called to the polls to vote on 10 new proposed amendments to our state’s constitution. These proposed constitutional amendments reflect reforms in many areas of public policy. Amendment 1 seeks to extend the property tax exemption that totally disabled veterans have to their surviving spouses. Amendment 5 would allow cities and counties to enter into contractual agreements to consolidate long term programs and public services without having to also assess a tax and create a sinking fund. Understanding that funding education is Texas’ top priority, Amendment 6 would change the manner of calculating the market value of the permanent school fund, with the result of raising the market value and allowing increased distributions from the fund to support public education.
Several proposed constitutional amendments deal with bonding authority for various state agencies in order to improve certain public services. Understanding that many families require financial assistance to send their children to college, Amendment 3 will authorize the state to issue bonds to fund low interest rate student loans in Texas. In response to our growing population, water demands and this extreme drought, the legislature put forth Amendment 2 to increase the bonding authority of the Texas Water Development Board by an additional $6 billion in order to address our water infrastructure. Amendment 4 would allow counties to issue bonds to fund the redevelopment of unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas and to repay those bonds through the property taxes collected from the redeveloped areas and without raising the county’s property tax rate.
In an effort to enhance “open space” land use in Texas, Amendment 8 would include water stewardship as a type of open space property, effectively reducing taxes on this type of property. There is also an election reform initiative on the ballot. Amendment 10 would clarify our resignation to run laws by stating that a local office holder with more than 1 year and 30 days on their current term must resign their current position if they are also a candidate for higher office.
I encourage you to vote in this upcoming constitutional amendment election, as the decisions made this November will have a lasting impact in Texas. The last date to register to vote in time to participate in this election is October 11th. Early voting in this election runs from October 24th through November 4th and election day is November 8th. For more information on all 10 proposed constitutional amendments, please visit http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/pubsconamend/analyses11/analyses11.pdf
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. If you would like to share a thought with me, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org