Texas, Our Texas, November 4- The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, makes its recommendations for the Constitutional Amendment election set for Tuesday, November 7, 2017. There are seven (7) proposed amendments to Texas’ Constitution of 1876.
In 1876, 11 years after the end of the American Civil War, Texans had had enough of the Republican-led Reconstruction. Texas Democrats demanded a new constitution to eliminate Reconstruction mandates and to return to limited government.
Governor Edmund Davis was a pro-Union Texan who had moved to Galveston, Texas, at the age of 21 in 1848. During the Civil War, he served as a Brigadier General in the First Texas Cavalry Regiment fighting for the Union Army. Davis served as Governor of Texas during the later stages of the Reconstruction period from 1870 to 1874. Davis evoked much controversy because of the complexity of his beliefs. He was ardently against slavery but he also strongly supported Texas’ rights as a state to govern itself. He called for a constitutional convention as one of his last acts as Governor after he had lost the 1873 gubernatorial election.
The constitutional convention convened in 1875. 75 of the 90 delegates were Democrats. There were 41 farmers and 29 lawyers who participated. Sul Ross and Rip Ford were among the delegates.
The Constitution of 1876, as amended, is the second longest state constitution in the United States. Only Alabama’s constitution is longer. Since its adoption in 1876, the Texas Constitution has had 673 proposed amendments of which 479 garnered voter approval.
The Texas Constitution is hardly a document that merely states broad principles as does the United States Constitution. There are many enactments that seem far more of a legislative nature, which Texans sought to harden into non-repealable law.
The amendments would take effect when the Secretary of State has tabulated the election results and the Governor of Texas has completed his canvass, which must occur no later than 30 days after the election.
This newspapers’ recommendations in Tuesday’s Constitutional Amendment election are the following “FOR” or “AGAINST.”
Proposition 1. FOR. Provide homestead exemption for partially donated homes to disabled veterans.
Many people donate homes to disabled veterans. Under current law, if a disabled veteran paid some amount of the cost of a donated home, the veteran is unable to receive the property tax exemption for disabled veterans under Section 11.132 of the Texas Tax Code. This amendment would allow disabled veterans, who pay for part of the cost of the home while a charitable organization donates the remainder, to receive a partial property tax exemption for the donated portion, as long as the donation amount was less than the market value of the residence. The veteran’s cost can be no more than 50% of the market value in order to receive the exemption.
While this proposal is probably bad policy for only giving tax exemptions to specialized groups, rather than lowering government spending and taxation, it still reduces the amount of money in government’s hands although through a complex formula. Anything to reduce the amount of money in the government’s hands is well worth our support. Additionally, we should certainly honor our disabled veterans.
Representative Cecil Bell of Magnolia and Senator Brandon Creighton of Conroe were the authors of this Constitutional Amendment.
Proposition 2. AGAINST. Liberalizing home equity loans to allow for including a number of fees in the loans and to allow for refinancing of home equity loans as non-home equity loans.
This constitutional amendment allows for liberalization of home equity loans to allow certain fees also to fall outside of the cap of charges a lender may receive for a home equity loan. While the overall cap of charges declines to 2% of the loan from 3%, the exclusion of major charges from the cap will likely make home equity loans more expensive.
At the same time, home equity loans have become a major threat to Texas’ historical homestead protections. By allowing home equity loans to modify into non-home equity loans, Texas homeowners will lose many rights the Legislature had provided when the controversial home equity constitutional amendment first came into Texas law.
Texans still have one of the strongest homestead exemptions in the United States. The homestead exemption encourages Texans to take bold actions in business with the knowledge that they’ll always have their home as an asset safe from judgment creditors. As banks, which already suffer from very questionable accounting and consumer loan practices, can whittle away at homestead protections, Texans will lose much of that protection which has historically made Texas entrepreneurs the great leaders whom they are.
Proposition 3. FOR. Limiting terms for certain appointees of the Governor.
This proposal would bring an end to an appointed officer of a state board, commissioner, or council until the last day of the first regular session of the Texas Legislature that began after the officer’s term expired. Current law requires the appointed officer to continue to serve until their successor has duly qualified.
Opponents of this measure argue that it might result in vacancies on state boards that would make it difficult for the state agency to take actions. That argument in and of itself is precisely the reason Texans should support this amendment. Anything that would make it more difficult for government to act (other than with respect to national security or law enforcement) is a good thing.
Proposition 4. FOR. Requiring court notice to the Texas Attorney General if someone makes a constitutional challenge to state laws.
In 2013, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that the requirement in the Texas Government Code that the Attorney General receive notice if someone makes a constitutional challenge to state laws is unconstitutional to the separation of power doctrine under the Texas Constitution, because the legislative branch was interfering in the powers of the judicial branch.
This common sense amendment gives constitutional protection to the Government Code provision requiring notice to the Attorney General of Texas if someone challenges the constitutionality of a state law in a judicial proceeding.
Proposition 5. AGAINST. Expanding eligibility requirements for sports team charitable raffles.
This proposed amendment would allow professional sports teams’ charitable foundations to hold charitable raffles at home sports games.
We don’t need more gambling in Texas. Leave it in Nevada.
Proposition 6. FOR. Homestead property exemption for surviving spouses of certain first responders.
This proposal would allow the surviving spouse of a first responder killed or fatally injured in the line of duty to receive a partial or total homestead exemption, as long as the spouse had not remarried since the first responder’s death.
While this proposal is probably bad policy for only giving tax exemptions to specialized groups, rather than lowering government spending and taxation, it still reduces the amount of money in government’s hands although through a complex formula. Anything to reduce the amount of money in the government’s hands is well worth our support. Additionally, we should certainly honor the spouses of our fallen first responders.
Proposition 7. AGAINST. Authorizing the Texas Legislature to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to conduct raffles supposedly to promote savings.
This proposal would allow banks and credit unions to conduct promotional activities “to promote savings” (balderdash!) by conducting raffles where one or more of the institution’s depositors would win a prize selected by lot.
We don’t need more gambling in Texas. Leave it in Nevada.