Texas adds 11 amendments to constitution

Bryce Bencivengo

Voters in Texas approved all 11 proposed amendments to the state constitution on Tuesday.

The turnout for the statewide election was just below 10 percent. In Travis County, only five percent of registered voters went to the polls.

One of the more contentious amendments on the ballot was proposition 11. This change to the constitution would limit the ways government would be allowed to exercise eminent domain. The initiative passed with an overwhelming majority, with 81 percent of the vote in favor.

Both Republican gubernatorial candidates Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, released statements congratulating voters on passing Proposition 11. Perry endorsed this constitutional amendment despite having vetoed legislation in 2007 that would have set restrictions on eminent domain. At the time, he said that it would cost taxpayers too much money.

“It was a statement to the state government that people want their property rights protected,” senior Chris Duke said. “Despite the low voter turnout, it was clear that government had been overstepping its bounds with eminent domain.”

Proposition 4, which will now provide research dollars for emerging universities also passed with 56 percent of voters approving.

The proposition created an endowment called the National Research University Fund. The legislature also added $50 million to the state’s budget for emerging universities on top of the amount they are already allocated. The fund is supposed to provide $25 million a year to be spent in ways that facilitate research. The funding is being made available without new taxes.

Universities like UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington, UT-El Paso, UT-San Antonio, Texas Tech University, the University of Houston and the University of North Texas are expecting this money to help them achieve the tier one status.

Texas currently boasts three tier one universities; the University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and Texas A&M University.

Legislation was passed earlier this year that requires universities to meet certain requirements to be eligible for the money. Currently, none of the schools vying for the funding meet the new requirements.

Several of the other propositions that were added to the constitution centered around property taxes. Another amendment that passed, known as Proposition 9, guarantees public access to beaches along the Gulf Coast.

 

Each proposition explained From the Associated Press

Proposition 1

Authorizes financing methods for municipalities and counties to acquire buffer zones or open spaces next to military bases. The proposal could prevent encroachment next to the base and allow construction of roads, utilities and other infrastructure to promote the mission of a military base.

Proposition 2

Allows the Legislature to provide for ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead solely on the basis of the property’s value as a residence, not at the potentially higher commercial use value.

Proposition 3

Provides for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for taxation. Texas lacks uniform standards, and proponents say this amendment will ensure that property in diverse parts of the state is valued using the same generally accepted practices.

Proposition 4

Establishes a national research university fund to help emerging research universities achieve national prominence as major research universities. Those pushing the proposal say it will provide funding similar to what elevated Texas A&M University and the University of Texas to first-tier status, providing jobs and stature for the state. Others questioned whether now is the time to spend such money.

Proposition 5

Permits the Texas Legislature to allow a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities. That means area appraisal boards can be consolidated if they choose.

Proposition 6

Authorizes the Veterans Land Board to issue general obligation bonds in amounts equal to or less than amounts previously authorized. It will keep the land board from continually having to seek legislative authorization.

Proposition 7

Allows an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices. This will correct what some say is an oversight in the state constitution.

Proposition 8

Authorizes the state to contribute money, property and other resources to establish a veterans hospital. It’s designed to speed up efforts to open a federal Veterans Affairs hospital in the Rio Grande Valley, whose residents currently must travel to San Antonio to receive some VA hospital services.

Proposition 9

Protects the right of the public to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico. This will block private developers from restricting beach access to the public. Some say it could infringe on private property rights.

Proposition 10

Limits elected members of the governing boards of emergency services districts to terms no longer than four years. Currently, terms are two years. Proposition 11 Prohibits governments from taking private property for private economic development to increase a tax base. It also limits the Legislature’s power to grant eminent domain authority to a governmental entity.

Proposition 11Prohibits governments from taking private property for private economic development to increase a tax base. It also limits the Legislature’s power to grant eminent domain authority to a governmental entity.