How I’m voting on the constitutional amendments
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#1 Authorizes local governments to buy open space near military bases as buffer zones. Just a minute. I thought the whole state was going nuts over giving government the power of eminent domain. This “open space” is private property. Why is it wrong to take property for private development (Prop 11) but OK to take property to prevent private development? It’s still taking private property. No. #2 Authorizes the Legislature to require that residential property be appraised at its value as a homestead, not as its highest and best use. This is the worst proposal on the ballot. The most importance advance in state government in my lifetime was the Peveto bill requiring equal and uniform appraisal of property. You cannot have a rational school finance system without it. No, no, a thousand times no. #3 The issue here is whether all appraisal districts should follow the same rules and procedures. This means taking away local control and allowing the Legislature to make the rules — effectively, a choice between the devil (imperious appraisal boards) and the deep blue sea. It’s hard to argue against requiring that all taxpayers get to play under the same rules. Yes. #4 This is the Tier 1 amedment that establishes the National Research University Fund to help move more universities to flagship status. This is a huge step forward in funding higher ed. The problem is that the only university that even comes close at the present time (other than UT and A&M) is UT-Dallas, and it is a niche institution that specializes in science and engineering. No other university is even close. But it’s a start. Yes. #5 The amendment would allow two or more counties to consolidate their appraisal processes. It’s hard to believe this can’t be accomplished by statute. This is as good a place as any to say that those who would throw out the Texas constitution because it requires a vote of the people on trifling amendments such as these are wrong-headed, IMO. There is a lot of wisdom in the constitution, especially in what it does NOT call for, like annual sessions and a professional Legislature and a cabinet form of government. Let’s not open the Pandora’s Box of adopting a “modern” constitution. No recommendation. #6 This authorizes the Veteran’s Land Board to recycle payments from a program to provide home loans to vets. Again, this is the kind of amendment that draws criticism from those who think that it is silly to have the people authorize the issuance of debt. I disagree. The Legislature authorized $9B worth of debt in 2007. That is a lot of debt. I think the voters ought to have a say when the Legislature tries to make an end run around the pay-as-you-go system. Yes. #7 The constitution prohibits individuals from holding two civil offices at the same time, with certain exceptions. This would add an exception for members of the Texas State Guard. I see no reason why people whose service to the state may put them in harm’s way should not have the opportunity to hold a paying position in state government. Yes. #8 The amendment would allow the state to contribute to the establishment of veterans’ hospitals. Readers may remember that this proposal was offered by Kino Flores to assure the completion of a new VA hospital in the Valley and led to a major flap on the floor. This is not pork. There are a lot of veterans in the Valley and they currently have to go to San Antonio to be served. Yes. #9 The amendment recognizes an easement for the public to have access to the state’s beaches. The Open Beaches Act establishes a rebuttable presumption of this public right, and the Texas Supreme Court has upheld it. The reason for this amendment is the Wayne Christian situation. If the beach is eroded by storms, and homes are destroyed, and landowners try to rebuild on a beach that has retreated inland, the public easement could be wiped out. Before you feel too sorry for Wayne Christian, you should know that every purchaser of coastal property is informed that the beaches are subject to erosion and to the provisions of the Open Beaches Act. The worst case scenario is that the area between the vegetation line and the low tide line could be covered with homes. Yes. #10 The amendment would allow board members of emergency service districts to serve fo ur-year terms. The triviality of this amendment tests my loyalty to the text of the constitution. No, for wasting my time. #11 This is the eminent domain amendment. I have no problem with the requirement that a taking must be for the use and benefit of the public, not to enable private development. But I do have a problem with the requirement that after 2010, the Legislature can authorize the use of eminent domain only by a 2/3 vote. Supermajorities are a bad idea. We have representative government. Don’t tie the hands of the Legislature in future years.